Fire has been a lifelong fascination for Dan Yager.
When he was about 5 years old and living with his mother in Los Angeles, he set a fire in their home. In a twist of fate, one of the firefighters who responded would later become Yager’s stepfather.
“In my own sick little way, I brought them together,” he said.
Yager’s propensity to start fires collided with his new role model and evolved into a desire to put them out.
His family made the trek north to Quincy and eventually settled in Sutter in 1978.
Five years later, Yager served as a volunteer firefighter during his senior year at Sutter High School. In 1988, he finished his four years as a firefighter with the Air Force and came back to Sutter to begin a 19-year climb to become Sutter County fire chief.
Yager, 42, has held the top post for three weeks, but he’s still adjusting to the change from being out with his fellow firefighters to spending more time behind a desk toiling with e-mails and paperwork.
“I’m not out there grubbing around the boys now,” he said. “But I still look forward to coming to work every day.”
His new post gives him a little more time to himself and to be with his wife and two teenage daughters. It also gives Yager a chance to give a bit more back to his friends and neighbors while doing a job he loves.
“It’s why all of us get into it, so we can serve the community we live in,” Yager said.
As far as the department is concerned, Yager doesn’t see a need for many changes. He credits the work of previous chiefs he’s worked under for making things easier for him by not leaving a mess for him to clean up. He especially praised the work of his first chief, Gary Kraus, who, he said, set the wheels in motion with a few changes and his high expectations.
“Chief Kraus moved the department to what it is today,” Yager said. “Now I’ve got to make sure our goals are set and we’re on track to meet them.”
Over his 19 years with the Sutter department, Yager said, the department has done a good job of keeping up with the times and the growth in the area. The greatest impact will be from the fire-protection contracts in Live Oak, where the area continues to grow, he said.
“We’re a small department, but the area gets a lot of bang for its buck,” Yager said. “It all comes back to the almighty dollar, but I look forward to the challenges.”
But for now, everything is in place for Sutter County residents to sleep easy at night, Yager said.
“We’re looking for ways to improve, but there are no big ax-wielding changes coming through,” he said.
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