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Bloomington Fire Chief announces retirement at the end of the year

Written by on October 3, 2023

Photo provided by the City of Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – After a 32-year-long career, Bloomington Fire Chief Eric West has announced his intention to retire in early December, ending a career he said he has enjoyed every minute of.

West didn’t envision himself working as a firefighter. He talked about the other plans he had and what led him to his career path that has spanned more than 30 years.

“Coming out of school, I really had no intentions of becoming a firefighter, my plan back then was to attend ISU and become an athletic trainer.” said West. “ But towards the end of my time at ISU, a friend of mine who was involved with the volunteer fire department asked me to get involved when I got done with school.”

As a student at Illinois State University, West was a part of the volunteer fire department, which he said helped spark his passion for firefighting.  While at ISU, he changed his major to occupational safety to align more with his new career interests.

West elaborated no his time at ISU and the lessons and classes that stood out to him.

“At ISU there were a lot of courses that helped me throughout my career, the first ones that come to mind are the classes that dealt with fire safety codes,” West said. “It helped me learn how to prevent fire and how to make buildings safer, and I later went on to do an internship for the Bloomington Fire Department that was in code enforcement.” 

During his senior year, West applied to be a full-time firefighter in the city of Bloomington.  Not being hired by Bloomington immediately, he went to Indianapolis for nine months to work as a firefighter there.  After his time in Indianapolis, he was eventually offered a position as a firefighter in Bloomington.

West said the most memorable parts of his career were the calls where he was able to make a difference and see a positive reaction from individuals.  Additionally, he refers to his coworkers as his “second family”, and derives great value from the relationship he holds with them.

West said, “It was a big change when I switched positions at the station and worked more of an office job.  You go from a schedule where you’re with the same people for multiple days and nights, to a more traditional 40-hour work week.” 

West went on to express the hardest about his retirement, stepping away from his second family.

“I’m going to miss the guys.  Thankfully, I won’t be that far away, so I will be able to keep in contact with them.” said West.

West most valued the comradery and the deep connections he built with his coworkers while working as a firefighter.