Here’s the Deal: long time fire chief now a full-time instructor at HutchCC

By Bailey Young / Online Editor

Jeff Deal, a fire science instructor at Hutchinson Community College, has been in the fire science industry for 25 years as active duty, and a year as an instructor.

Coming in as Deal would say, “overeducated” and learning even more on the field, he can share a lot with not only his students, but those across campus. Deal has a lot to say about his experiences and the importance of education.

Deal said that every fire fighter has to go through the same process of promotion, from being a rookie handling the hoses on the back of the truck, to a driver, then a lieutenant, after that a captain, then a staff position in an office, and finally the titles of deputy chief and fire chief.

Deal became chief of McPherson’s fire department and stayed in that role for eight years.

“In that process, I’ve done basically every job that there is on the fire department,”  Deal said. “The only thing I haven’t specifically done is the fire inspection type stuff, although I was certified in it.”

One may wonder why, after 25 years’ active duty, Deal’s next career step is teaching.

“It was kind of weird,” Deal said. “I kind of did everything backwards with my career.”

Deal took the traditional path through college – starting at a Garden City Community College for his associate’s, followed by HutchCC for his fire science degree, then working himself up through a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University, and finally to a master’s degree from University of South Dakota.

“So, I came into the fire science department completely overeducated, when at the time all you needed was a pulse and a high school diploma,” Deal said. “So on the job I got assigned a lot the role of being able to teach people … it was just kind of happenstance that I fell into that role.”  Later, Deal got the opportunity to go to the training division and to train fire fighters. He describes that time as when he “hit (his) stride.”

With being ready to retire, after serving as a teacher and having strong ties to education for the majority of his career, this position at HutchCC seemed like the right fit for him.

One of Deal’s most significant memories whilst serving on a unit was when there was a chimney fire during which the firefighters came in and “ruined the carpet and made things a whole lot worse.”

It was that call when Deal realized that he, amongst others, needed to do a better job of being mindful of how to solve the problem without making things worse. That’s one of the things students in the fire science program learn in their classes. He refers to it as the “Chimney Story”.

If students are wondering what to expect in Deal’s classes, he can assure you it’s not the hands-on experience every student wants to learn. In his class, he teaches from the textbook.

We talk a lot about the science and the theories, and the practices, and the principals about what it is to be a true fire scientist,” Deal said.

He uses real-life experiences to explain to his students why they need to know this information, and he learns along with them, stating that he even learns new things and ideas from his students’ discussions.

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