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In Memory - Chief Scott Dozier - Winters Fire Department

Story from November 2011

Dozier adds ‘Retired Fire Chief’ to his resume

Express editor

     Winters Fire Chief Scott Dozier has held every position there is to hold at the fire department, and now he can add one more to the list: Retired Fire Chief. His last day will be Sunday, Nov. 20 and a Change of Command Ceremony is planned on Friday, Nov. 18, at 5 p.m. at the Public Safety Facility.
     “The retirement of Scott Dozier means almost 35 years of Winters Fire will be leaving our organization. It will be a significant change for us,” says City Manager John Donlevy. “Scott knows practically everyone in Winters, and can be counted on to help anyone and everyone.”
     Donlevy says Dozier “dutifully carried out the tradition of Winters Fire involvement within the community.”
     “Whether it was Toys for Tots, the many banquets at the Fire Station, fire explorers or the volunteer fire department, as Chief, Scott has always put the community first.”
     Like Police Chief Bruce Muramoto, Dozier delayed his retirement to serve as the project manager for the fire department’s portion of the project, and can now head to retirement knowing he’s left the fire department in significantly better shape than when he started working there in 1973 under Chief Vern Bruhn. Dozier was still in high school at the time, and helped start the cadet program under Bruhn. Dozier was eligible for retirement three years ago, but stayed with the department to see the Public Safety Facility through.
     A true Winters native, Dozier was born right here in town and delivered by Dr. Ernie Young. His family moved to Winters in 1952, when they purchased Roseberry’s Drug Store, at which time it became Dozier’s Pharmacy, complete with a soda fountain. After graduating from Winters High School, he completed his Fire Sciences degree at Solano Community College, and then worked in a government funded firefighting program called CETA for 10 months. At the time, he then had three different jobs open up to him at once, which was like “walking across a parched desert and all of a sudden flowing into an oasis.”
     He picked the job at Willow Oak Fire Department for two years, and returned to the Winters Fire Department in 1980 under Chief Bruhn as a fire department mechanic. Yes, Dozier even had to fix his own firetruck.
     “I’ve been fixing them ever since,” he admits. “That’s how we saved money to run our department.” And, not only Winters, but other fire departments as well. Dozier helped them fix their vehicles too. He says saving money was a philosophy that continued under Chief Dave Kidder, under whom Dozier also worked until his retirement 11 years ago, when Dozier succeeded him as fire chief.
     With deep Winters roots, Dozier says, “I’m just happy I had a chance to serve my community, to do something I really like, to do something for the city, and to live comfortably with my family — and to have a pretty good time doing it.”
     Clearly, his service to the community is much wider than just the completion of the Public Safety Facility, but the building is nonetheless a crowning achievement to a long career in public service. He saw the fire department move from what is now the old police station to its next home at 10 Abbey Street, and then relocate to the state of the art facility at 700 Main Street this fall.
Besides a bigger, better facility, he says the department itself also grew, from one chief and one captain when he started to a chief, two captains, a full time firefighter and about 30 volunteer firefighters. Because the department grew long before the Public Safety Facility broke ground, Dozier says the old fire station had clearly become inadequate and undersized in recent years.
     “We were outgoing it, especially in the office area,” he says, noting that the bay for parking the trucks was so cramped, the doors to two adjacent trucks couldn’t be open at the same time. One truck would have to be pulled out to get a different one free.
     “If we stayed there, we would have had to remodel,” he adds.
Besides more physical space, the new facility with its firefighters’ living quarters allows the fire department to have 24-hour shifts, which means quicker response times in emergencies. He describes the facility as “the biggest dang deal” to happen to the fire department in memory, and says the 24-hour shifts, or “sleeper program” is “the single biggest paradigm shirt the department has gone through since it was conceived at the turn of the century.”
     The 24-hour shifts mean that firefighters will actually get a chance to rest. As it was, firefighters were working on call, and often had to go out in the wee hours of the morning for minor emergencies, such as “lift assists” for people unable to get out of bed or ambulate on their own.
     “It was burning the guys out,” he says. “You were never really off.”
     The burnout created high turnover for the department, and he says covering the station by oneself was “terrible.”
     Despite his enthusiasm about the new facility, which he says is something the entire community can be proud of, Dozier is reluctant to take much credit for his role in its construction.
     “It was a team effort,” he insists, and offers praise for Muramoto, the city council and city staff. “Everybody had input,” he says, noting that “everybody” included community members.
     As for the community, besides quicker response times, Dozier says community functions will be much more comfortable in the winter because the large truck bay has a heated floor.
One thing that is obvious about the new facility is that it’s much bigger than the current fire department staff needs. There’s plenty of room for expansion. However, Dozier doesn’t foresee that happening right away.
     “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Winters isn’t a treasure chest of money.”
But he also notes that scrimping and saving won’t be occupying his time and energy any more. He says he hasn’t had much time off over the years, and is looking forward to more free time. He chuckles and says the “two old guys — Jack and Jack” working at Pacific Ace Hardware “have the best job in town.”
     “They come from home, put stuff on shelves, help people, go home. They’re honest, and they don’t have to worry about budgets and politics.”
     Budgets and politics will likely be far from his mind, as Dozier says he plans to spend time on his new fishing boat. Spending time with his family will also be a priority now. As he steps into the next chapter of his life, he has nothing but positive things to say about his staff, who he describes as “great people,” and particularly lavishes praise on the volunteer firefighters.
     “The volunteers are wonderful. I will put my volunteers up against any other volunteers in Northern California, and they will do it better and faster. They’re just a great bunch of guys.”
He also expresses appreciation to his wife, Kathy, for her support over the years. He says Kathy often had to deal with “the darker side of the program.”
     “You can’t always tell people what you think or what you want to call them. A lot of times that gets unloaded on your spouse.”
He also has praise for the Fire District Board.
“You talk about unsung heroes. The board does it for nothing, and takes all the legal responsibility when no one else will do it.”
     Dozier also expresses confidence in the arrangement with the Dixon Fire Department, which will work with the Winters staff for the next three years as “a bridge.” During this time, Dixon will lead the way in manning a larger, more complex facility.
     “It’s nothing negative about our staff,” he says. “It’s a paradigm shift. Dixon’s been through all these changes. And, it’s a money-saver for both cities.”
     Ultimately, Dozier says there will be a Winters Fire Chief again.
     “The city wants the next chief to come from the Winters Fire Department, but we have to bring him up. In three years or maybe less, we’ll have that accomplished.”
     As for the Dixon chief and captains, Dozier describes them as “very talented, very dedicated, great firefighters.” And, he says, that means the Winters Fire Department is in good hands.
     “I think I’ve taken the fire department as far as I can take it. It’s time for the next step — the next chapter.”
     City Manager John Donlevy elaborates on the impact Dozier has had to the Winters Fire Department, and expresses his feelings as he retires.
     “Under Scott’s leadership, you saw the progressive modernization of Winters Fire. In the addition of new equipment, training and the eventual merge between the Fire District and the city, Scott was a key player. A significant part of his legacy will be the construction of the new Station 26, which will set the tone for the future of the department.
     “On a personal note, I will miss the kindness and selflessness of Scott. I always knew that I could count on Scott to be there when we needed help on anything. He has certainly earned his retirement, but I also hope that he will rejoin the volunteers. He is one of those people who makes Winters Winters.
     “In my career in city management, I have never met a more dedicated public servant than Scott. Night or day, you could always count on Scott and Winters Fire to be there to help. Whether flood or fire, their dedication to the community can always be counted on, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with the Fire Department. They are always there.”
     Besides serving the Winters Fire Department, Dozier is a member of the Rotary Club of Winters, and a member of the Yolo Count y Fire Chiefs Association, the California Fire Chiefs Association (CalFire), and the California Firefighters Association’s National Fire Protection Association.
     The community is invited to the Change of Command Ceremony on Friday.



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