Sterling hires interim fire chief

Former Tinley Park Fire Department chief hired through temp agency

Forest Reeder has been named interim Chief for the Sterling Fire Department.

STERLING – Forest Reeder has been named the new interim chief for the Sterling Fire Department.

Reeder, who was welcomed onto the department at the June 3 Sterling City Council meeting, stepped out of retirement to assume the role while the city looks for a permanent replacement after the recent retirement of former Sterling Fire Chief Michael Dettman.

The council on May 6 approved a contract with GovTemps to employ an interim chief at a cost of $120.70 an hour until the end of August, with the option to extend the contract depending on departmental needs and availability, according to city documents.

“It’s humbling to step into a fire department that’s basically 150-plus years old,” Reeder said. “To be leading an organization like that for even just a short term is an amazing opportunity.”

Reeder currently is a staff instructor for the Illinois Fire Service Institute, a consultant for CPS HR Consulting and board member for the Illinois Fire Chiefs Educational and Research Foundation. He served as fire chief for the Tinley Park Fire Department for four years before retiring in 2021.

He started his career as a cadet in his high school program in 1978.

“The school had a really good softball team, and I wanted to play softball with them,” Reeder said. “But to play on the team you had to join the fire department. I pretty much never left after that.”

He brings over 30 years of experience in training and leadership positions, plus a master’s degree in public safety administration from Lewis University and a bachelor’s in fire department administration from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Reeder developed a passion for training other fire professionals partly out of necessity, after being injured as a cadet. He suffered smoke inhalation during a structure fire, spending three days in the hospital.

“We really didn’t have a good training program established at the time, so the fire department sent me to instructor school,” Reeder said. “I got a lot of certifications that firefighters need to have, and I was able to turn around and teach that to the new cadets and firefighters.”

During his time as interim fire chief, Reeder said he plans to work with the department’s firefighters on achieving higher levels of certification while helping the department build a professional development plan.

“Going through my career, my mantra has always been based on four things: better, faster, safer, smarter,” Reeder said. “Everything we do during my time here needs to be based on those four things.”

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Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.