ARLINGTON – For Dave Kraski, his foray into firefighting began with a knock at the door.
The Arlington High School graduate was working for United Parcel Service in the early 1990s, and Fire Station 47 opened near Arlington Airport to serve residents in new neighborhoods nearby like his own in The Woodlands and Gleneagle.
“There was nobody out there, and the firefighters went door to door trying to find people to volunteer at that station,” Kraski recalled. “They knocked on the door at my parent’s house, and I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’”
The city came knocking again Monday when they made the 27-year veteran Kraski permanent chief of the Arlington Fire Department.
Kraski’s two daughters, Jordan, a sophomore at the University of Louisville (Ky.), and Olivia, a junior at Arlington High School, pinned the chief’s badge on their dad in the City Council Chambers. He and his wife Denise have been married for 25 years.
Several firefighters, police officers, family and friends attended the ceremony.
City Attorney Steve Peiffle performed the oath of office for the new chief, the same attorney who swore in Dave’s father, Bob Kraski, when he became Arlington mayor in 1990.
Kraski, 50, will oversee operations of the department and a roughly $5 million budget, supporting three fire stations and 30 full-time employees.
After joining the department as a volunteer in 1991, he accepted a full-time job four years later. Kraski worked his way up the ranks, then was promoted in 1999, serving as captain for 18 years.
In July 2017, he became deputy chief in charge of the organization’s daily operations. Unexpectedly, three months later, he stepped in and was appointed acting fire chief when Bruce Stedman took a job as chief for District 1 South Snohomish County.
“With the unexpected departure, to be honest, I was thinking ‘What just happened here?’” Kraski said. Deputy Fire Chief Tom Cooper’s retirement wasn’t a surprise, nor were the contracts that have kept him active with the department today on a more-limited basis.
“The acting fire chief role presented a formidable challenge having little experience or knowledge of the administrative side of the department,” Kraski said.
He credited Stedman, Cooper and North County Regional Fire Authority Chief John Cermak for sharing their knowledge to get him up and running, along with support from line and city staff.
“The department has had some good success and accomplishments over the last fifteen months,” Kraski said. “It is rewarding to look back on.”
Some of those successes include enacting an Ambulance Utility Fee to help fill firefighter and EMT positions immediately, adopting more-equitable agreements with four fire agencies that contract with Arlington for EMS services, selling off outdated fire apparatus and acquiring grant funding for life-saving equipment and staffing.
The new chief will earn $152,901 a year to start.
The hometown Kraski has extensive historical knowledge of the department and community, and he has attended countless classes and earned several certifications. He has an associate’s degree in Fire Science, and is working toward his bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration.
“I hope to continue to learn and evolve throughout my career,” he said. “I am humbled and proud of the appointment to fire chief, and look forward to the years ahead.”
Mayor Barb Tolbert is confident that Kraski’s leadership will take the department far.
“Dave is going to do awesome; he has already been doing a phenomenal job,” Tolbert said.
“He’s one of the most thoughtful chiefs I have ever worked with,” she said. “He has a long history with the department, and a calm, analytical nature. He looks at issues from all sides.”