Dave Mettler spent two decades as a firefighter looking up to the department’s captains, relying on their experience and expertise. On Thursday, Mettler became one of those leaders during a Lodi Fire Department promotion ceremony that honored three firefighters.
In front of family and friends at Lodi’s Carnegie Forum, Fire Chief Larry Rooney promoted Mettler to captain, while Cameron Heberle and John Rowlands were promoted to engineers.
“Dave is a really hard-working individual,” Rooney said. “He’s always there to help. He’s very calm. It’s very clear to us that he’s sincere and he’s really a quiet leader.”
Mettler has spent 14 years with the Lodi Fire Department. He was hired in February 1999 and promoted to engineer in 2002.
Mettler, though, would have been a mechanic if it weren’t for his father, Bernie Mettler, who spent 45 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Mokelumne Fire District.
Instead, Mettler followed in his father’s footsteps. He has spent years learning from his captains, and now has the opportunity to become a teacher himself.
“I’ve always looked up to my captains as pretty much the expert on the engine or truck company,” Mettler said. “I hope I can do that for the individuals that work for me, too.”
Heberle and Rowlands also stood in front of the Carnegie Forum crowd to receive their new badges from the chief.
Four firefighters applied for two engineer positions, which presents many challenges to those promoted.
“It’s a whole different mindset,” Rooney said. “As a firefighter, you’re pulling hoses and throwing ladders. When you become and engineer, you’re in charge of driving the truck and pumping all the hydraulics and more. There a lot of math and science to it.”
Rowlands joined the department four years ago and received the highest score on the engineer test.
“He’s worked really hard to get this promotion,” Rooney said. “He was out there drilling and training every day and it really showed when he took the test and came out No. 1.”
Heberle accepted his badge with his father, Ron Heberle, a former Lodi battalion chief, in attendance. His wife pinned his badge, and Heberle thanked everyone who helped him receive the promotion.
But even with a new title and new responsibilities, Heberle’s goals remain the same.
“I just want to make myself better every time I go on shift,” Heberle said. “I want to help my firefighter become an engineer and make sure my crew is safe. That’s the No. 1 thing.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.