ELBURN – The Elburn & Countryside Fire Protection District’s new chief, Joseph M. Cluchey, is looking forward to becoming an integral part of the community.
Having previously worked his way up through the ranks to become the chief of the South Elgin & Countryside Fire Protection District, Cluchey has the experience and background that Elburn was looking for in a new leader. After a nationwide search that began with 49 applicants, Cluchey was the district’s top choice. He was sworn in as the new chief Nov. 14.
“He caught everybody’s eye,” fire district board member Brian Schopp said.
Schopp said that having dealt with the tremendous growth that has taken place in South Elgin since Cluchey joined the department in 1981, he feels Cluchey is well-prepared to shepherd Elburn through its upcoming growth and challenges.
Cluchey started out with South Elgin as a paid-on-call firefighter and worked as a contract paramedic for a time before becoming a career firefighter. He then worked his way up through the ranks to become chief for the district. He served as chief for 12 years before suffering an injury from a roof collapse that caused him to retire from South Elgin in 2014 and take on a leadership role as the statewide operations chief for the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System [MABAS].
Responsible for preparation and planning for large-scale events such as train derailments, tornadoes and hazmat situations, Cluchey headed up the deployment of the highly specialized and trained task force to deal with events such as the aftermath of the recent tornado in Sublette, Ill.
Cluchey said that while working with a “world-class organization” such as MABAS was very gratifying, there is nothing like the fire service for being able to make a difference on a day-to-day basis. He said there is an exponential impact one can have in helping to lead a fire protection district and helping to mold the culture to move it forward.
He looks forward to being able to have that kind of impact with the Elburn & Countryside Fire Protection District.
He said he and his wife also look forward to becoming a part of the Elburn community.
“Elburn is a unique place, steeped in heritage and culture,” he said. “There’s a lot of civic pride here.”
At the same time, he said, the growth that will be taking place in Elburn makes it a unique opportunity.
He looks forward to the challenge of bringing seven communities together and will bring to bear his experience with the communities surrounding South Elgin to Elburn – Campton Hills, Virgil, Lily Lake and the other communities represented in the new district.
His enthusiasm for community involvement began immediately with the decision to participate in the Elburn Christmas Stroll, Jinglepalooza and a drive-thru Christmas drop-off at the station for donations of toys and coats. He also has met with the Elburn police chief to begin exploring joint opportunities within the community.
He said these opportunities will include emergency response planning and communication, as well as more “fun” things, such as “Reading with the Chief” at the Elburn library.
“I have two soft spots – youth and senior citizens,” he said.
He looks forward to working with the well-rounded and capable members of his new department, he said. He perceives they have what he believes is the best background there is for the job – the desire to help their community.
He sees the district as having a good foundation, and he will work at keeping it at the front edge of change, he said, calling fire service “the best team sport ever, with consequences if we lose.”
Cluchey said the department’s tradition of service will not change.
“When people call, we’re still going to be there for them,” he said.