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Blackduck gets a new fire chief

Blackduck Fire Chief Rick Bogart, left, hands the white hand of authority over to the new chief, Troy Gabrelcik during the April 9 Blackduck City Council meeting. Following the approval of the council, Gabrelcik gave an update on the plans he has as the new chief and what is happening in his department. Bogart will remain on the department as a firefighter.

Almost six years ago to the day, Rick Bogart became chief of the Blackduck Fire Dept. and he has enjoyed all of that time but felt now was the time to step down and let his second in command take over.

"I have been fire chief for six years now," said Bogart at the April 9 Blackduck City Council meeting. "And it's time for me to step aside and let someone else take over."

Bogart told the council that he had enjoyed his time as chief and that he wasn't leaving the department.

"I am still going to be a door buster," laughed Bogart. "I am still going to be with the department, just not as chief."

Bogart explained that his assistant chief has been being groomed to take over for him when the time came. And now, the time had come.

And with that statement, Bogart introduced Blackduck's new fire chief, Troy Gabrelcik.

Following the council's approval of the new chief, Bogart passed the white chief's hat off to Gabrelcik.

The new chief began his firefighting career in Blackduck during the fall of 1988.

"I have been a firemen for 23 years," said Gabrelcik, "and during that time, I have been a firemen, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief and Training Officer."

Gabrelcik has spent the past six years as assistant chief and looks forward to taking over the responsibilities that come with being chief.

Each year, fire departments all over the country hold fundraisers to raise money for equipment and training. Blackduck is no different.

"The fire dept. has done a lot of fundraisers over the past few years and will continue to do some of them however not all of them," explained Gabrelcik.

"The list of current ones we intend to do are the spring fish fry every March, the golf tournament in June, the Back Woods Bash (the firemen restaurant menu created by Bogart), summer fishing tournament and our famous winter fishing tournament in February."

Chief Gabrelcik said that the big things needed by the department is the equipment.

"We need to keep up with the newer and more modern vehicles on the road and also staffing and training of firefighters in this new age. Things are changing everyday in firefighting and if we are going to keep up we need to train and have the equipment to do our job," he said.

Blackduck also opens the fire hall up during Fire Safety Week. This is held in October each year and this year, it is set for October 7-13 and as always, some of Blackduck's firefighters will be going to the school to talk to the kids and they will be having a smoke house for the older ones to walk through.

According to Gabrelcik, the department is currently understaffed and his plan is to "first provide the training to the firefighters we have and work on recruiting new people," he said.

There are 23 firefighters currently on Blackduck's roster and Gabrelcik is optimistic that the department will be operating with a full roster in the near future.

"I believe that at this point, our most important thing is to train, train and do more training. In the past few years, we have seen a trend -- fewer fires -- which is always good however the firefighters have less experience fighting fires. So again training is the key," he said.

Part of that training involves what it called a "live burn" where a structure is usually donated to the department for training purposes.

Gabrelcik is working on putting together a live burn for sometime this spring.

"These type of burns are priceless and give the fire fighters great training," he said.

Also vital to training a firefighter for all situations is a mock disaster drill like the one put on up in the Kelliher and Waskish are last year.

Chief Gabrelcik isn't from Blackduck originally but once his family moved here and put down roots, he knew this was where he wanted to be.

"I was born in Buffalo but moved here with my parents when I was in second grade to the Squaw Lake area," he said. "I grew up on a resort out east called Dixon Lake Resort went to school both in Squaw Lake and finished in Blackduck.

"Once I graduated, I moved south to go to school and started working in the industry I currently work in lawn care and landscaping," he explained. "I moved back to Blackduck in 1988 and soon after joined the department, now I own my own business -- TG Lawn Care and Landscaping here in Blackduck."

TG Lawn Care and Landscaping is a full service business in Blackduck and many other communities. They fertilize lawns, do weed control, landscaping, lawn installing, hydro mulching, stump grinding, building maintenance, carpet cleaning and many other services.

Also helping with the business is Gabrelcik's son, Anthony, who works as a licensed lawn care supervisor and is part owner of the business.

"And my wife, Kelly, is, well, just the boss," he said with a laugh, "Especially of the office."

Anyone wishing to join the fire department should apply at city hall. Along with the application, those wishing to become one of Blackduck's finest, has to be at least 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or equivalency, pass a work performance test and physical exam, have a valid Minnesota driver's license and pass a background check.