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Superior battalion chief preps for new role

Camron Vollbrecht will lead the Superior Fire Department as chief after Scott Gordon retires Dec. 30.

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Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht, Superior's incoming fire chief, stands beside a new electric truck at Superior Fire Department headquarters on Monday, Dec. 5. The truck, once outfitted, will be able to respond to medical emergencies in place of big rigs, which get low gas mileage.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Camron Vollbrecht was on top of a mountain when he got the call he was going to be Superior’s next fire chief.

“I was in northwestern Colorado on an elk hunt with some buddies from college,” said Vollbrecht, who currently serves as a battalion chief for the Superior Fire Department.

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Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht, Superior's incoming fire chief, smiles at department headquarters on Monday, Dec. 5.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

He got the call from outgoing fire chief Scott Gordon. The next day he hiked to the summit, 8,000 feet up, to get cell reception so he could receive and accept the city’s written offer via email.

In addition to a new leadership position, he bagged a five-point bull elk during the trip, which took place the week of Thanksgiving. In whitetail deer terms, it would have been a 10-pointer. It took three days to pack the elk out.

“This is probably the first time in our lives we ever ran a calorie deficit on Thanksgiving,” said Vollbrecht, 48.

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Switching gears

Firefighting was a career change for Vollbrecht, who grew up in central Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris with a degree in biology. He banded ducks for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and served as a field technician and project scientist for consulting firms in Morris and St. Cloud, Minnesota.

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Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht, incoming fire chief for Superior, stands beside an electric truck at Superior Fire Department headquarters on Monday, Dec. 5. Once outfitted, the truck could be used to respond to medical calls in place of a larger fire truck.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Missing the physical activity outdoors, he took a job as a paid on-call firefighter for St. Cloud and found a new calling. He joined the Superior Fire Department on March 13, 2006.

“I decided to make a career change and just took a job here and, you know, I really fell in love with the department, the city, the area, the community — just the small nature of the department that we are. We are a family,” Vollbrecht said.

The Minnesota native became a motor pump operator in 2014, a captain in 2018 and a battalion chief in 2019. Some of his primary duties included being in charge of the hazmat team and industrial firefighting. He’s also been teaching firefighting classes at Lake Superior College in Duluth for the past decade.

Love for the department drove his decision to apply for chief.

“I want to keep us moving in a positive direction,” Vollbrecht said. “We’ve been set up very well by Chief Gordon.”

Setting goals

Gordon, who retires Dec. 30, came into the office with a three-year plan. Vollbrecht, who has roughly six years before he reaches retirement age, has goals as well.

The management team Gordon has assembled is something Vollbrecht is keen to continue.

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“We all have different views and different experiences in our lives, and I think that being able to talk and communicate and how we all see things differently helps us be a better management team,” Vollbrecht said.

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Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht, Superior's incoming fire chief, talks about the Superior Fire Department's new vehicles and their capabilities at the headquarters station on Monday, Dec. 5.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The team includes the battalion chiefs and Assistant Chief Howie Huber, who started work a week before Vollbrecht.

“It really is neat to serve that with Howie all these years,” the incoming chief said. “I think I’m stronger technically on things, and Howie … he’s very personable, easy to talk to, which helps complement kind of how I operate. I’m a little more straight to the point.”

Vollbrecht has already made his first leadership decision, choosing Captain Steve Miner to take his place as battalion chief. When Gordon leaves, a new firefighter will be hired.

Moving forward, Vollbrecht said he intends to maintain and expand public-private partnerships between the department and local industries, particularly oil, gas and shipping companies.

Residents will see some visible changes in the coming year that have already been set in motion:

  • A new airboat that will be able to travel across ice and water, built by Lake Assault Boats, should come online in January. The craft should be usable 365 days a year. The boat and training costs were paid for with a $300,000 federal port security grant Vollbrecht wrote in 2021.
  • An electric pickup truck is being prepped to bring firefighters to calls that don’t require a big rig, such as medical incidents.
  • A tracked UTV, which will be able to travel along trails in all weather and reach wildfires, will take the place of the department's current UTV and snowmobile.
  • Renovations are planned for stations three and two. One of the department’s long-range goals is to add a fourth station and additional company within the next five years to take some of the increasing workload off the other three stations. The department is on track to answer 4,425 calls in 2022, up from 4,165 in 2021.
  • Solar panels could be in store for the headquarters station, as well.

The move to a desk job is going to be another change for Vollbrecht, who lives in the town of Amnicon with his wife. He took the job to serve the community; this is just a new phase, he said, serving the people who serve the community.
"They’re not going to see any changes. We’re still going to be there when they call 911 — 24/7, 365 — providing high-quality service with compassion and care for our community," Vollbrecht said.

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A new tracked vehicle rests on a trailer at the Superior Fire Department headquarters station on Monday, Dec. 5. The vehicle will replace the department's snowmobile and older Ranger UTV. It can be used to access patients on snowmobile and ski trails, as well as the harbor when it's frozen up.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Related Topics: SUPERIOR, WISCONSIN
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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