Fire Chief Wayne Kewitsch has left his mark on Richfield

Bagding and Kewitsch 1

If you live in Richfield, Minnesota, whether you know it or not, outgoing Fire Chief Wayne Kewitsch’s actions over the past decade has made your life safer. After ten years as the city’s fire chief he is leaving the department.

“Since becoming chief, Wayne has provided both steady leadership and guidance,” explained Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez. “He is one of Richfield’s biggest heroes and has built a strong team that will serve as his legacy.” 

Kewitsch started his career in the fire service in 1996 as a paid-on-call firefighter for the City of St. Louis Park. He moved to the Richfield Fire Department (RFD) in 2000 where he eventually filled the roles of lieutenant and assistant fire chief before being promoted to the position of chief in 2011.

From day one in the fire chief position, positive organizational culture was a priority for Kewitsch and will serve as one aspect of the legacy he is leaving.

 “Being a career firefighter is not your typical 9-to-5 job,” commented Kewitsch. “Our crews are spending an entire 24-hour shift together, so having a positive culture in the department leads to a better work environment for our firefighters and better outcomes for Richfield residents.”  

He also brought new technology, training and techniques to the department including CPR Mondays, Blue Card certification, Vitals app, EleGARD and LUCAS chest compression system.

“Technology has advanced dramatically in the fire service over the past 20 years,” admitted Kewitsch. “Whether it is the radios we use or the resuscitation techniques we employ, it has all changed during my career in the fire service. By embracing new technology that is proven to work, we have reduced the amount of fire damage and have made our community safer.”     

Kewitsch’s legacy goes well beyond any one or two accomplishments, and will live on for decades in the men and women he has mentored over his 25-year career.

“Chief Kewitsch instilled the belief that higher education and experience are both requisite for success at the Richfield Fire Department and leadership in the fire service,” remarked Battalion Chief Jenell Wood. “Through his encouragement and support, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Fire and Emergency Services Administration, which helped me develop as a leader throughout my career. I know he has done the same for other firefighters both within and outside the department.”  

Throughout his service, Kewitsch was always willing to put the department and residents first.

“Wayne is a leader that thinks more about the organization than himself. He worked tirelessly to make sure that Richfield’s firefighters had what they needed to excel in their jobs,” confirmed newly minted Fire Chief Mike Dobesh, who served as Kewitsch’s assistant chief for nine years. “As the fire chief, it was never about him. I hope to show that same selfless leadership as chief. Thankfully, I had a great teacher!”

Even though Kewitsch may be leaving the RFD, his passion and work within the field of fire service will not be ending anytime soon. Soon, he will become the executive director of MnFIRE, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to improve firefighters’ physical and mental wellness.

Kewitsch is confident that the department is well-positioned to meet the needs of residents after he is gone.

“Richfield’s fire department has a great culture, great firefighters, great equipment and great leadership,” stated Kewitsch. “I would rank the RFD up there with any department in the country and it will only get better into the future.”