A conversation with Homer’s new assistant fire chief: Terry Kadel

Meet Homer’s newest assistant chief at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department: Terry Kadel.

After years with the position left unfunded and vacant, the department has been able to fill its second-in-command spot. Kadel, who had his first day with the department on Sept. 18, comes from the Girdwood Fire Department, where he spent 20 years. He began there as a volunteer, then spent time gaining certifications in emergency medical service and firefighting and working in New Mexico to gain experience before returning to Alaska. He most recently served as Girdwood’s deputy chief since 2001.

The Ohio native attended both the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Anchorage, and has a bachelor’s degree in primary education. He moved with his family to Alaska in 1977 when his father was transferred to the state as part of his job with Standard Oil, which would later be bought by BP. Kadel went to elementary school in Chugiak and graduated from Chugiak High School.

Kadel’s entrance into the emergency medical field wasn’t a conventional one. He joined the ski patrol at Alyeska in order to gain more readily available and affordable access to the slopes, but that’s where he found out how much he enjoyed patient care.

When it came to the position in Homer, Kadel was no stranger to the area, having kept a boat in the Homer Harbor years ago.

“I became an EMT instructor (around 1997), and this was my first class I ever taught was in Homer,” he said. “I taught an EMT I refresher here, and I really, really liked the department.”

Kadel shared an experience of working with the equipment in the training room following the class when a group of women came up and informed him his time was up and he needed to vacate the space for their quilting group. Kadel said he was impressed with their conviction and the fact that the department was so receptive to opening up its spaces to different groups.

“I appreciated how community-oriented the department was,” he said. “And there’s people, volunteers coming in to own their station and be able to work on projects and group things.”

Kadel said he’s looking forward to buying a house in Homer, something he described as more affordable than in Girdwood or the Anchorage area. His partner, Tim, and their two chihuahuas will join Kadel in Homer when the details of selling their Anchorage home are taken care of, he said.

The transition into the Homer Volunteer Fire Department has been welcoming, Kadel said. Since the organization has gone so long without an assistant chief, the role is also in the process of being redefined, he said.

Kadel has a few goals for his time in the position. Chief among them is using his qualifications to continue to support area firefighters and paramedics by offering training and courses, especially to volunteers. Keeping up the core base of volunteers with the department is vital to keeping the organization running smoothly, he said.

“There is a paid staff, so that might give people (the idea that), ‘Oh, we have a paid staff so we always have this,’ but without the interfacing with the volunteers, the driving force of the volunteers, the wheels of the fire truck or the ambulance won’t roll,” Kadel said.

And a fan of paddle boarding and cross-country skiing, Kadel said he’s glad to be in Homer near the ocean.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.