From junior firefighter to the newest hot shot

Charlie Frank, who started his career with the Valparaiso Volunteer Fire Department, has returned more than 20 years later to take over as chief.

By AMY LEIGH WOMACK Daily News Staff Writer

VALPARAISO Fire Chief Charlie Frank says his life seems to have come full circle.

More than 20 years after joining the Valparaiso Volunteer Fire Department as a junior firefighter, hes come back home.

The difference this time is hes the man calling the shots.

After working locally at the Ocean City-Wright Fire Control District and spending 10 years fighting fire in Fort Lauderdale, Frank said he jumped at the chance to return home.

When the chief s position opened up we talked about it, Frank said, and I put my name in the hat.

It was an opportunity to come back to my hometown where I was born and raised, he said. I wanted to be home with my family. Back in 1980, Frank said a childhood friend was a volunteer and influenced him to join the department.

Then I got the bug, Frank said.

From then on he worked through the ranks, not only as a volunteer at Valparaiso, but professionally at Ocean City-Wright and later in Fort Lauderdale.

While in Fort Lauderdale he worked as a firefighter, driver and fire prevention inspector, completed a degree in Public Management, and became part of a special operations team.

I swung from tall buildings and from helicopters, Frank said.

But in September, after then-Valparaiso Fire Chief Randy Wilke retired, Frank said it was time to come home and take a new role in the fire service a management role allowing him to continue building the department that gave him his start.

When Frank returned to Valparaiso, many of the volunteers were trained in CPR and basic first aid, but no one had completed the basic volunteer fire training class mandated by the state in 2003.

Now he says training is one of his main goals for the department, and most of his volunteers have now completed basic fire training.

And Frank said hes always looking for opportunities for his volunteers to test their skills.

Im trying to give the guys as many training opportunities as possible, he said.

Frank said hes also looking to expand the services his department provides by offering within a month medical-call response in addition to fire response.

And Frank says hes back to stay a while. Hes even building a house about a block away from the fire department.

Its coming home, he said.

Staff Writer Amy Leigh Womack can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 445, or