Hickory Fire Chief announces retirement after 51 years of service

HICKORY, NC (July 26, 2018)…After over 51 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Hickory, Fire Chief Fred Hollar announced that he will retire on October 1, 2018.  At this time, a new fire chief has not been named.

“Fred has been an integral member of the City staff and has led his department with integrity and humility. One of his strongest traits is the ability to establish and maintain effective communications and rapport with fellow staff, clients, and management, plus the various private, federal, and local entities that are affiliated with the fire service,” noted City Manager Warren Wood.  “He leaves our community stronger and safer, and his legacy will continue through Hickory Fire’s excellent service to our citizens.”

“I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to serve the citizens of Hickory and work with the most qualified men and women of the Hickory Fire Department,” said Hollar.  “Citizens of Hickory are very fortunate to have a department of dedicated and professional firefighters serving their community.”

Chief Hollar was appointed by City Manager Mick Berry and then Assistant City Manager Warren Wood as City of Hickory’s Fire Chief on October 1, 2012.  He began his career at the fire department on February 20, 1967, as a firefighter.  He quickly gained the experience and knowledge to become a recognized leader in the department.  He was promoted through the ranks to Apparatus Operator in 1972, Lieutenant in 1975, Captain in 1979, Department Training Officer in 1980, and then on to Assistant Chief in 1981, Deputy Chief in 1989, and to Fire Chief in 2012.  Throughout the course of his career, Hollar’s experience within each of the various divisions provided him the insight to successfully manage the department’s authorized force of 135. 

Chief Hollar attended Hickory Public Schools, graduating from Hickory High School.  He furthered his education by taking many fire-related classes dealing with all aspects of fire protection, EMS service delivery, and rescue procedures.  He studied Fire Science at Western Piedmont Community College and Catawba Valley Community College.  He completed several management and professional communication classes, both on the local college level and with the United States Fire Academy.  He has been instrumental in working as a liaison between the City and Catawba County on Emergency Management.  Chief Hollar has also served on many City and County committees to better the service for our citizens. 

“On behalf of City Council, we have been pleased with the professionalism of Chief Hollar and his department over the years.  At the same time, we have enjoyed a very cordial relationship with him, and I am certain that he is leaving the department in excellent condition for the future,” shared Mayor Hank Guess.   

Throughout his career, Chief Hollar made many contributions to the fire service and the City of Hickory.  He encouraged community engagement by developing the Citizens Fire Academy to educate residents about the department and overall fire safety, and by involving all fire companies in neighborhood meetings to present call reports prepared by battalion chiefs.  Following the 9/11 attack on the U.S., he spearheaded the annual Patriots Day Ceremony to bring the community together in remembrance.

He also cared deeply about his employees, and implemented many programs and initiatives to improve efficiency, staff safety, and the work environment, including: upgrading the living conditions in all fire stations, installing video conferencing to facilitate in-house training, developing the first ever Career Development Guideline, cross training all fire inspectors and fire educators to do both functions, creating an additional Shift Commander position to serve as a safety person on all incidents, reorganizing Fire Prevention and Fire Education into one Life Safety Division, mandating all firefighters take and pass the annual department agility test, creating a Commendable Service Policy to recognize coworkers who perform beyond expectations, and hiring an in-house IT Specialist to assist with advanced technologies.

Chief Hollar endeavored to make Hickory Fire Department the best department possible.  Working in collaboration with staff, he prepared the first Strategic Plan for the department to guide actions for the next five years.  In 2015, he started the response of a fully-staffed Rescue Truck utilizing current staffing.  He coordinated a complete risk analysis of all fire, EMS, and rescue responses citywide to educate staff and identify areas for improvement.  He also coordinated a comprehensive plan for evaluating all fire apparatus and administrative vehicles for replacement, and worked with City management to develop a comprehensive plan to fund large capital purchase (i.e. firetrucks). Chief Hollar implemented a complete assessment center process for first line supervisor (captains) for the department.  All these efforts have positioned the department to receive an improved citywide fire rating, following the inspection from the North Carolina Rating Bureau.

His dedication to continuous learning and education led to the development of a plan for Hickory Fire to obtain certification in all aspects of the department’s rescue service delivery for the first time in its history.  He has also worked with in partnership with Catawba Valley Community College and the City of Hickory to plan and develop a combined Public Safety Training Center near the College.

Even with all these accomplishments, one of Chief Hollar’s greatest points of pride was simply serving his hometown community.

“I have always been proud to serve my community where I have grown up, and I am grateful to those who have mentored me along the way.  Any success I may have enjoyed in the fire service should be directly credited to my family and those men and women of the Hickory Fire Department,” said Hollar.  “I am a firm believer in doing what you love to do; my goal was to make the department a place where all my coworkers wanted to come to each duty day.  I think in order to grow in any career and be successful, you must be open to change.  Change can be a good thing and we must embrace change to better serve our citizens.”

Additionally, Hollar added, “I am ready to pursue the next chapter in my life.  I have always said I am so fortunate with God giving me my health, and to have a career that I enjoy.  My wife and I enjoy the coast, so we hope to spend a lot of time there and I will try to catch up on some of the projects I have wanted to do, and we may look for volunteer work in the community.  We also have a son and a granddaughter that we think the world of and we’re looking forward to her going to college.  I am very confident in the leadership in place at the Hickory Fire Department and expect to continue to see great things from the department.”

Additional comments by Fire Chief Fred Hollar…

“To my family, ‘Thank You’ for putting up with me for all these years.  I have left them in restaurants, out shopping, and have left the house at all hours of the night to be where I felt I needed to be on emergency incidents.  I always felt if firefighters had to be up doing their job, it was my job to be there, if nothing but to speak to them at three in the morning, or help a citizen get the help they needed.  I was fortunate to grow up in Hickory because I knew a lot of folks, which made it easy for me to talk to anyone I met.”

“To City Council, I would like to say ‘Thank You’ for giving me the opportunity of my life to serve you and this City, as the Fire Chief.  Your group has made a lot of decisions over the years, but I have to say the one you made in 2012, making me the Fire Chief, has to be the best one you have made.”

“And to the citizens, I would like to say ‘Thank You’ for letting me serve you, your families, and your businesses for the last 51 years.  There is sadness coming to the end of a career that has been good for me.  I hope I have never tried to be bigger than the job itself.  It is not important that everybody knows who the Chief is, but that the Hickory Fire Department will always be there when you need them to solve the problem.  I will miss the day-to-day involvement with staff, and I hope if they remember one thing from our time together, I want them to know I cared.  It was important to me that they had a good place to work, good equipment, and that they were safe. I would just like my staff and the residents to know that I cared for them every time I pinned on that badge.”

“One other very important goal that I would bring to everybody’s attention is City Manager Warren Wood’s Economic Growth Strategic Plan to grow jobs, population, and the overall tax base for the City.  I believe in my heart that he and City Council have the right vision for the City and the growth that is needed to sustain all City services.  I encourage all citizens and coworkers to support him and help City management make this a reality.”