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Fire Chief Says He Is Retiring

Dennis Haag has worn many hats during his tenure, including serving as both San Bruno's and Millbrae's fire chief and doubling as Millbrae's police chief for a time.

Fire Chief Dennis Haag, who led the emergency response to the San Bruno explosion, will be retiring at the end of May.

Tonight, the Millbrae City Council will honor Haag.

"He's a very modest, non-public kind of fellow," says Councilmember Robert Gottschalk, "so the council in public is going to thank him and wish him good will, a fare-thee-well."

Currently, Haag has been serving as fire chief for both Millbrae and San Bruno.

To replace Haag, the plan is for Don Dornell, currently the chief for Central County Fire, to oversee four cities: Millbrae, San Bruno, Burlingame and Hillsborough.

Central County Fire now services the residents of Burlingame and Hillsborough.

The four cities are now moving forward with a merger of their fire departments, with Central County Fire and the Millbrae and San Bruno fire departments all under the same umbrella. Administrative cost savings were expected to be achieved through a combination of early retirements and reclassification of various positions.

A new deputy chief will be selected to become Millbrae's fire chief down the line. Four candidates are currently being interviewed by the city. Millbrae City Manager Marcia Raines has yet to make a final decision for the position.

Other changes for the fire department: A new fire station will be constructed on Skyline Boulevard and Truesdale in the near future, and Station 38 will be closed. 

"The fire department has always been the most cohesive, the most positive, efficient and effective entity you could imagine," says Gottschalk, who has worked with Haag for over ten years. "In fact, (his leadership) was so good, that for awhile, we had him doubling up and acting as police chief when there was a vacancy."

Sister Cities Commission Chair Doris Morse remembers Haag from personal experience. "Years ago when I was on the council, I fell while I was at Taylor Middle School and landed right on my knee. He took me right over to the hospital and stayed with me in the emergency room," says Morse. "It just tells you the kind of person he is."

In part, Haag may be retiring to spend more time caring for his 94-year-old father Walter, who has been in the hospital recently. Walter was Millbrae Man of the Year in 2009.

On May 25, there will be an opportunity at the fire station on Magnolia Avenue for the public to come down, thank Haag, and say goodbye.

"It's going to be really sad to see him go," continues Gottschalk. "I used to tease him, saying 'You can't retire for at least 10 or 15 years', but some of those years have flown by."

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