New Idaho Falls fire chief takes over Oct. 20


Dave Hanneman was announced as the new chief of the Idaho Falls Fire Department on Thursday morning.

Hanneman is chief of the Chula Vista Fire Department in Chula Vista, Calif., a post he has held since 2008. He will begin work in Idaho Falls on Oct. 20.

Interim Fire Chief Duane Nelson, a driver/operator who had sought the permanent position, was identified by Hanneman as his heir-apparent.

Nelson and Hanneman were two of three finalists for the position.

Nelson, Hanneman said, will be his “right-hand guy” and will be groomed to one day assume the chief’s position.

“I hope to develop him into the next chief of the department because I think he has all the potential for that,” Hanneman said.

Mayor Rebecca Casper also touted Nelson.

“Duane Nelson has exhibited incredible strength of character through this whole process,” Casper said. “He took on all the difficult things that a chief would do.”

Nelson said he looks forward to a continued leadership role in the department.

“I’m excited to be a part of this organization,” he said. “I have always viewed this as the community’s fire department.”

Hanneman has more than 30 years’ experience in firefighting and emergency medical services, according to a city news release.

“I’m excited about getting back to Idaho and looking forward to working with members of the department,” Hanneman said. “The department is young and it’s energetic in moving forward with growth. My expertise is in strategic planning and career development, which are the two areas I think Idaho Falls Fire Department can benefit from what I have.”

Hanneman holds a master’s degree in professional technical education from the University of Idaho, along with a bachelor’s degree in fire service technology from Boise State University. He served at departments in the Boise area for 25 years before moving to California.

“I love the outdoors, and in southern California we really don’t have that,” Hanneman said. “I missed it since I left and really wanted to get back.”

Casper announced the hiring to Fire Department members during an 8:30 a.m. staff meeting in the City Council Chambers. Hanneman participated in the meeting via Skype videoconferencing software.

“Chief Hanneman has a breadth of experience, all of which I think will benefit this department,” Casper said after the meeting. “Most particularly, a strength in strategic planning.”

Hanneman replaces former Fire Chief Dean Ellis. Ellis stepped down May 16 to become manager of fire service training at Eastern Idaho Technical College.

The city’s fire chief position pays an annual salary of $100,609.

Along with the new chief’s hiring, a slew of new hires and promotions have been made within the department in the last several weeks.

A string of retirements during the past few months, Nelson said, opened up room for individuals who have “pushed themselves to be better and pushed their department to be better.” Those promotions include:

• Wynn Whitmeyer, who was promoted from driver to captain.

• Aldo Bevilacqua, John “Chet” Pugmire, Richard Bates and Aaron Nelson were promoted from firefighter to driver.

• Mark Pitcher was promoted from firefighter/paramedic to driver/paramedic.

Additionally, seven firefighters were hired: Aaron Cliburn, Steven Hardy, James Hitch, Jeremy Potter, Mark Gebs, Eric Pace and Blake Luthy.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.