Dave Radel graduated from Hazelwood High School in 1972. He remembers his graduating class well; it had about 1,100 students and one of them was the daughter of then-principal, Lawrence Fuqua.
Radel is the fire chief for the City of Hazelwood. He was promoted from assistant chief in December 2011. He and his family moved to Hazelwood in 1959, when he was about 5. He attended Russell Elementary School, which opened that year. Later, he rode school buses for the 11-mile journey to and from Kirby Junior High School, one of the District’s two junior highs in the mid-1960s.
Radel said his high school class was the last one to use a standard class schedule before the Board of Education approved a split-shift schedule, a short-term way of dealing with the explosive high school population growth the District experienced at that time. Permanent solutions came when two additional high schools opened, Hazelwood East and Hazelwood West, in the mid-1970s. Hazelwood High School became Hazelwood Central High School.
“What I got from Hazelwood High School was what we thought of as standard education in the basics,” he recalled. “I felt like I had a good handle on reading, writing and arithmetic. I felt like I was prepared to handle college at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Those basic skill sets helped me in the jobs I had before firefighting, including veterinary assistant and retail store manager.”
He said he only took one extracurricular class in high school, yearbook. “Yearbook class first got me acquainted with deadlines and getting the big job completing the yearbook on time.”
These days, Radel again takes classes, this time at Lindenwood University, to earn a bachelor’s degree in fire service management. He finds that his Hazelwood education still serves him well.
“I took algebra as a sophomore in high school and I just took a statistics class at Lindenwood. With a little prompting, I was able to bring up algebra from 1970. Obviously, the Hazelwood School District did a good job in giving me a foundational education.”
That education also factors in to his work as fire chief. He pointed to a hydraulics presentation he recently completed for the mayor and city council. He said it uses a lot of baseline algebra.
Radel started his career as a firefighter in 1978. “I started working with the rank of private at the age of 24. Since then, I have served as a back step firefighter, which is the person who rides backward on the fire truck, a rescue squad member, a fire inspector, a fire captain, deputy chief and for four years, assistant chief.
“Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t have a family history in firefighting. I was shoe store manager working in downtown St. Louis. I saw a City of Hazelwood advertisement for firefighters in the newspaper and I applied. I had never considered it before but I thought it would be a job I would enjoy doing. After 34 years, I can honestly say I have enjoyed it.”
Radel said he enjoys the customer service aspect of firefighting. He said many of his calls during his early years as a firefighter came from friends and family in the area.
“I grew up here and I’ve chosen to raise my children here,” he said. “I still live four miles down the road from our main engine house. I can’t believe how much I’ve been blessed to have a job that is centered on helping people during their most vulnerable times.”