Gregg Cleveland reflects on time as fire chief - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Gregg Cleveland reflects on time as fire chief

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Gregg Cleveland has fought more than fires throughout his more than 30 year career, fighting to leave every department better, than he found it.

His career began in 1979 with the Menasha Fire Department after being discharged from the Marine Corps because of an injury.

"I was really upset after that happened and one day my dad told me I should join the local department and I thought that sounded intriguing," Cleveland said.

In 1991, he took over as Marshfield fire chief. 15 years later, he says he was looking for a new challenge and La Crosse fit the bill.

"This has been the most fabulous career a person could ever have," he said. "If I were to do it all over again, I don't think I would do it any differently."

Over the course of his 11 year career in La Crosse, he said a lot has changed.

"We've become a very data driven organization, sometimes what we think is happening, isn't actually happening," he said.

Analyzing data has enabled the department to operate more efficiently and roll out important programs including the use of Narcan for drug overdoses.

"We received international accreditation in 2014 and that was really a statement for our department," he said. "That should give the community a great deal of comfort knowing when we're on a scene, we're going to make the right choices and do everything we can."

While he is proud of the accreditation, he said it's the people that truly make his department successful and one he is proud to be a part of.

"When you can sit back and watch a fire at Houghton's or the Midwest Fuels explosion, it's a rare opportunity for me to sit back almost as an outsider and see everything work," he said.

While he'll hang up his hat in June, he says his career has taught him many valuable lessons.

"You've got to do something to make the world better," he said. "It's all about giving back."

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