CHARLOTTE, Mich. — Charlotte's new fire chief has been battling blazes for more than 33 years.
Robert Vogel has worked with several departments in Michigan, even fighting fires alongside his dad. Come Oct. 11 he will add Charlotte to the list.
Vogel will replace longtime fire chief Kevin Fullerton who retired in April.
“It’s a big step for me," said Vogel, who is the fire chief in South Lyon. "I’m leaving a great job with great staff in a great city. And when I received the call from the city manager with the offer I was very excited.”
Vogel started his firefighting career in 1988 in Scio Township. He then spent 26 years with the Ann Arbor Fire Department, ten of those as a battalion chief. He joined the city of South Lyon Fire Department in December 2017.
Lieutenant Cindy Conrad with the South Lyon Fire Department has worked with Vogel for about three and half years. She said he’s fun, has a positive personality and, when the job gets stressful at times, he handles it very well.
“He is the type of person that lets his people learn. Trusts in their abilities, guides them when they need to be guided. He’s very trusting," she said.
She recalled a time when the department was fighting a fire in a neighboring city "and he was on the nozzle. He was actually like trying to put out the fire because not enough people had gotten there yet. I mean as a fire chief you shouldn’t be having to do those things, but he knew what needed to be done and he just went right to it.”
Vogel went to Western Michigan University after high school. After three semesters, he realized it wasn’t for him.
“I came home and we were at the dinner table with my mother, my father and myself, and my dad said, ‘Rent's due and you need to get a job.' And it was kind of shock to the system," Vogel said. "And I heard that the Scio Township Fire Department was hiring paid and on-call firefighters, I signed up and immediately fell in love with the job.”
Vogel's father was also an Ann Arbor firefighter, and they worked together, which is one of his favorite memories so far in his career.
“He was a driver which means he drove the truck to calls. And I came in as a young 22-year-old and there was a couple times where we worked together on a fire truck and it really really meant a lot.”
In 2013, Vogel received his bachelor's degree in fire science from Columbia Southern University.
One concern Vogel wants to address when he starts his new role is budget issues.
“Everybody knows that they had a special assessment district vote in May, it was passed but we’re going to have to try and figure out how to fund the Charlotte Fire Department moving forward.”
Vogel is excited to move to Charlotte and said it already feels like home.
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