Onalaska Fire Chief retires after 40 years of service

The next Onalaska fire chief has some very big boots to fill. Don Dominick has overseen the fire department for quite some time, but on Friday, he hung up his helmet for the last time.

A lot has changed since Dominick first started the job 40 years ago.

“These men and women are answering more and more calls each day. And we’re getting more and more of an overlap where there’s two and maybe three at a time,” Dominick said.

He spent most of his firefighting career in the metropolitan Detroit area.

“Even though they may call it the Midwest, it’s not the Midwest personality,” Dominick said.

Dominick took over for former Chief Paul Menches nearly 12 years ago. It was a night and day experience moving to Onalaska to become the new chief.

“This has been a dream that’s really reality,” Dominick said.

There have been a lot of memorable experiences along the way, from delivering babies to fighting fires. But one of the best parts is seeing some of his new firefighters move up the ranks.

“To see them develop and mature to the point that several have received career positions here… I’m going to miss the people,” Dominick said.

He’s leaving the department in the assistant fire chief’s hands for now.

“I’ve been on this fire department for 29 years. I’m pretty confident in running it,” said Troy Gudie, assistant fire chief for the Onalaska Fire Department.

While the chief has seen many changes over the years, Gudie hopes the next chief can keep the department moving forward.

“There’s still a lot of work left to do with the fire department and I think everybody’s excited to see who the next chief is and what changes will be made,” Gudie said.

Dominick is thankful for everyone who helped him improve the department during his time and is also hopeful for the future.

“I want to extend my gratitude for those that not only come after me as the fire chief but come here to serve the residents and be a part of the culture of the Onalaska fire department,” Dominick said.