Dave Cherrone found his career ladder with Clay Fire Territory — retires after 52 years

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Clay Assistant Fire Chief — Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone retired recently after 52 years of service.
Clay Assistant Fire Chief — Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone retired recently after 52 years of service.

Those are some big shoes to fill. Assistant Fire Chief — Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone retired recently from Clay Fire Territory.

His boss, Chief Timm Schabbel, had a better description of his time on the department. “Those are big fire boots. He cares about people, and he cares about the community. There are thousands of examples of his work. We have been blessed to work with him.”

There was a big send-off reception when the department took him home in a vintage fire engine.

Dave had 52 years of service with Clay — volunteer and full time. He retired as the longest service member in the 75-year history of the department. Chief Timm said, “No one could ever replace Dave. He is an exceptional public servant whose commitment to the community extends well beyond the borders of Clay Fire.”

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A legend around these parts. Everyone says it. Part of his legacy rests with his daughter, Lisa McCreary, who is a driver for South Bend Fire. She said she always looked up to him.

Recognizing that Dave can truly never be replaced, Division Chief Ron Melser was named fire marshal on May 9, Chief Timm said.

Dave said the job involves training, customer service, knowing the customers and taking pride in what needs to be done. He will expound on the benefits of knowing the administrators in the nursing home facilities in the township and the principals in the schools.

There are good reasons for knowing what is happening, he said.

His job entailed knowing if seniors needed extra help and making referrals to REAL Services, checking with homeowners after a fire and making calls to insurance companies. Checking if infants in the territory have appropriate cribs. “We teach risk reduction. We don’t want problems,” Dave said.

Dave attributed his work ethic to two businessmen, Paul Muldoon of Bonnie Doon’s and Ed Gibler, of the Ramada Inn. He worked for both men. “Both of them showed me what to do. They had a way to get the job done.” No one slacked off.

Dave also had high praise for Chief Timm, who believes in education and the job to be done. “He has an open door and wants to talk about goals and to know each firefighter.”

This fire job all started because he wanted to be an attorney. More on that later.

He has climbed the ladder — in his career. He watched Clay Fire grow to include German and Harris townships. Dave received an associate's degree from Ivy Tech in fire sciences. There were more classes at Indiana University South Bend and Southern Illinois University. He will receive a bachelor's in fire and emergency management from Purdue University Global this summer.

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He instituted several programs to improve safety and be proactive. He was the township’s first emergency medical technician (EMT).

In 1999, Dave joined the administrative staff as the captain in charge of the fire prevention bureau.

In 2001, he was named fire marshal. The new role put him in charge of the community services division. One of his creations was the Clay Fire Safety House, which taught children fire safety and survival skills. He also taught fire safety in the classroom and worked with 45,000 children from 1979 to 2002.

Clay Assistant Fire Chief — Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone receives a service recognition award from Sheriff William Redman. Cherrone recently retired after 52 years with Clay Fire Territory.
Clay Assistant Fire Chief — Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone receives a service recognition award from Sheriff William Redman. Cherrone recently retired after 52 years with Clay Fire Territory.

He has been the go-to person for fire safety for the local media for years. Dave said he was unsure how many times he was featured on morning news for Christmas trees or July fireworks safety tips. He has enjoyed working on those spots and knowing the media.

Back to the beginning. It all started with his plan to be an attorney. “Initially, I was going to the Air Force Academy.” He wanted to take the tract of studies that led to law school. In the interview for the academy, he was told there were too many lawyers.

That’s not good. He then planned to take a deferment on the Air Force and work for a while. While still in high school at Clay, his brother Ray was on the department. Ray suggested that he should volunteer. That was 1970. “There were 11 firefighters in two stations in Clay Township.”

There are 110 firefighters now in five stations.

He was hired fulltime in 1973. It has worked out.

Before retirement, he said, he was actively cleaning the office. “I’m a holdover. I use a lot of paper (for printing). Fewer trees will die.”

He said he was looking forward to time with his wife, Izzy, and his adult children — Lisa and her husband, David McCreary, and Joe and his girlfriend, Kinsey Bartlett. There are two grandchildren, Eli and Gavin.

Plans? “Basically, I’m lazy.” Sitting has advantages. “Maybe a store greeter. I may become a baby rocker (at the hospital).” He will probably find a better way to do that, too.

Contact Kathy at kfborlik@yahoo.com.

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Dave Cherrone worked 52 years for Clay Fire Territory