Craig Aberbach, chief of the Hailey Fire Department and assistant chief of Wood River Fire & Rescue, has announced that his last day with the departments will be Sept. 30. In a news release from the city of Hailey, Aberbach, 54, said he will return to the East Coast to spend more time with his aging parents.
The city of Hailey has begun a nationwide search to fill the position of fire chief, and Wood River Fire & Rescue is in the process of filling the position of its chief after Bart Lassman announced his retirement earlier this summer. His last day will be Oct. 3.
Aberbach was hired as chief of the Hailey Fire Department in 2013, and immediately began working to rebuild the department after the nationwide recession hit the city’s budget hard and put city purchases on the back burner. Today, he said, the department is in a good place, with the city being generous with its funds over the years since the recession to allow the department to buy new gear, equipment and fire trucks.
In an interview Monday, Aberbach discussed his six years of service with the departments and what the future holds.
Considered a “force of nature” by Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, Aberbach advanced the department while at the same time consolidating services with Wood River Fire & Rescue to provide a better level of service to the city and to unincorporated Blaine County. Through consolidation, Aberbach was assigned the additional position of assistant chief of Wood River Fire.
Beyond his roles with the fire departments, Aberbach used his free time to give back to the community in other ways, serving on the board of The Senior Connection in Hailey and working with the local chamber of commerce to create several fundraisers that benefit both departments. He also taught at fire conferences throughout the country for 22 years, hoping, he said, to improve fire-fighting capabilities nationwide and to inspire new firefighters to do the same. He said it’s been an honor to serve the Wood River Valley community and to work with the departments’ volunteer firefighters over the years.
Aberbach first took note of fire services in 1984, during his second semester of college in southern Florida, when he experienced a first-response incident firsthand. The incident left him intrigued with first responders and firefighting, and he soon began targeting his edu-cation toward fire sciences. In
1986, Aberbach began as a fire-fighter with Cape Coral Fire Department in Cape Coral, Fla., and worked up the ranks to division chief before accepting an early retirement during the economic recession.
Too young to quit working, Aberbach said, he felt that he still had many years to continue having a meaningful career, so he began looking for jobs across the country in fire services. At the same time, the city of Hailey was conducting a nationwide search for a new fire chief, and Aberbach applied. With an associate degree in fire science and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management, Aberbach said he hopes to continue working in the fire services after he leaves the valley.
Throughout his time in Hailey, Aberbach said, there have been many great experiences and accomplishments, citing the department consolidation as one of his biggest accomplishments.
“I’ve had a great career,” he said.
Along with his wife, Vicki, Aberbach will head back to the East Coast in the fall, settling in somewhere closer to his and Vicki’s families and beginning the search anew for an avenue to give back to his new community.