Retiring Lake Stevens fire chief is ready to try new things

LAKE STEVENS — Dave Lingenfelter loved being a paramedic because it kept him guessing.

In recent years, his challenge turned to making sure the Lake Stevens fire district weathered the recession.

Lingenfelter, 67, retired Tuesday as fire chief. The new chief, Kevin O’Brien, starts April 15.

Lingenfelter grew up in north Seattle and moved to Lake Stevens as a teen. He worked in the floor-covering business for 17 years after graduating from Lake Stevens High School.

At one point, two brothers-in-law were working on ambulances for Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington. Lingenfelter took an interest in their jobs and found himself in paramedic school. He stayed at Cascade for more than a decade.

In 1994, he left the hospital to become the paramedic supervisor for Snohomish County Fire District 8 in Lake Stevens. He also served the district as a battalion chief and as the deputy chief of emergency medical services.

He always tried to hire good folks, he said, and encourage them to get out into the community and earn people’s trust and respect.

He found that every emergency call, every chance to help someone, was different.

“There are times when you take care of a person, a patient, and it’s just real satisfying and rewarding to accomplish that and see the result of your efforts,” he said.

Over the years, though, fire fatalities stayed with him.

“You just think to yourself, ‘If only, if only there’d been adequate smoke alarms or if only people hadn’t been lying down while smoking,’ things like that,” he said. “I’ve seen my share of tragedy, that’s for sure. I think one of the ways people in this business survive is to look for bright spots in everyday situations.”

People could count on Lingenfelter, because he was consistent, Deputy Lake Stevens Fire Chief Larry Huff said.

“He’s always had a level head and listened to both sides of every issue before making decisions,” Huff said. “He pulled the department and the community through the downturn in the economy without any loss of service.”

Longtime Marysville Fire Chief Greg Corn, who retired Friday, has known Lingenfelter since he was a hospital paramedic, being summoned to calls in Corn’s district.

“He was always a very good paramedic who provided really high-quality patient care,” Corn said.

Lingenfelter helped other leaders be successful, particularly when it came to the medical aspects of the job, said Travis Hots, the fire chief for Getchell and rural Arlington.

“Dave was always a person I could call if I had questions or concerns, and he would usually guide me in the right direction,” Hots said.

Hots also worked directly for Lingenfelter for a time in Lake Stevens. The older chief was fair and reasonable and only signed off on projects that had clear and concise plans, Hots said.

Lingenfelter taught his crews that, “if it wasn’t in the budget, don’t bother asking,” Hots said.

Lingenfelter and his wife, Patti, have been married more than 40 years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. After retiring, they plan to visit family in Texas and Arizona and to spend time in Chelan.

Lingenfelter also wants to do more walking, fishing and hiking, and to try new things.

“We have all kinds of projects to do at home,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;


A retirement reception for Lake Stevens Fire Chief Dave Lingenfelter is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the fire district conference center, 10518 18th St. SE. For more information about the event, call 425-334-3034.

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