Blowin’ Smoke with Chief Dennis L. Rubin


This is the latest installment of our recurring interview articles titled, Blowin’ Smoke. These articles are used to showcase individuals across the country that have dedicated their careers to the fire service. The Model City Firefighter’s Blowin’ Smoke series have featured a wide variety of individuals throughout the ranks including Cpt. Mark vonAppen, Captain Willie Wines, Lt. Rhett Fleitz, and Chief Rich Gasaway. It is with great pride that we release this article featuring Chief D.L. Rubin of the City of De Pere Fire Department.


Chief D.L.Rubin (

Chief D.L.Rubin (

Dennis L. Rubin is the fire chief of the City of De Pere, Wisconsin.

Rubin was appointed by the City’s Police & Fire Commission in December of 2014. De Pere has a population of 25,000 residents. The city is located in the Northeast section of the state. The department serves the citizens and visitors from two fire-rescue station locations.

Chief Rubin’s experience in fire and rescue service spans more than 35 years. He has served as a company officer, command level officer, and fire chief in several major U. S. Cities. In 1994, Rubin served as the President of the State Fire Chiefs Association of Virginia. Rubin was the host Fire Chief for the 1999 Southeastern Fire Chiefs Association conference held in Dothan, Alabama. He served on several committees with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, including a two-year term as the Health and Safety Committee Chair. Chief Rubin was the host Fire Chief for the “Wingspread IV and V” conferences held in 1996 and 2006.

Chief Rubin’s educational accomplishments include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fire Administration from the University of Maryland and Associates in Applied Science Degree in Fire Science Management from the Northern Virginia Community College. Chief Rubin is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officers Program (EFOP) and the Naval Post Graduate School’s Executive Leadership Course in Homeland Security. Rubin is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM); and a certified Incident Safety Officer as well has obtained the Chief Fire Officer Designation (CFOD) and Chief Medical Officer Designation (CMOD) bestowed by the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

Rubin’s teaching credentials are significant. Rubin has been an adjunct faculty member at several state fire-rescue training agencies and that the National Fire Academy. Rubin is a popular speaker and lecturer at the local, state, national and international levels.

Rubin is the author of several emergency service textbooks. His first release is entitled Rubes Rules for Survival. This book is a collection of case studies dealing with the important topic of fire fighter safety. The next book that Rubin released was Rubes Rules for Leadership. The Chief discusses his 13 core values and describes how each one can be applied to improve one’s personal leadership capabilities. Chief Rubin’s third book, D. C. FIRE was released at the 2013 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) by Fire Engineering Books. Chief Rubin contributes to several fire-rescue service publications in the US and Canada. Rubin has written more than 200 technical articles relating to fire department operations, administration, training, & safety.

Chief Rubin lives in De Pere, Wisconsin. He has three grown children and one grandson. Dennis is an avid sports fan supporting all of his hometown professional teams.

How many years have you served in the fire service, and has/is anyone else in your family on the job? What was your drive to make you want to join the fire service?

Answer: I joined Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department on September 9, 1968. My interest in the fire service was fostered by my two older brothers that were volunteer fire fighters as well. One brother had the responsibility to make sure that I didn’t get into trouble after school and during summer vacation. So I spent all of my free time at our hometown fire station being supervised by him until I was allowed to supervise myself (early teenaged years) by which time, I was hocked on becoming a fire fighter.

Click here to view info about our FDIC event, Indy on Fire

Click here to view info about our FDIC event, Indy on Fire

Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference to either the fire service as a whole or the community you serve?

Answer: I have worked hard to become a quality fire service teacher and author. By providing instruction and information to other public safety family members, I am able to give something back to my profession. I started my formal instructor career at the University of Maryland Fire Service Extension Service (now MFRI) in 1974. My first fire journal article appeared in Fire Engineering Magazine in 1986. I have been teaching and writing ever since these benchmark dates.

Do you currently have any specific personal goals you would like to accomplish during your career, and have you completed any of those already?

Answer: I am working hard to publish a fourth textbook and to continue to be a good instructor. Further, I hope to be involved in various projects that are directed at improving our profession for years to come. For instance, I am assisting RAFT (a Michigan based regional fire training group) to produce and deliver the first national Crew Resource Management (CRM) Symposium this spring just outside of Detroit.

What is the biggest change that you have witnessed since joining the fire service?

Answer: In a word, we have developed into a profession (both career and volunteer departments). When I started, there was no emphasize placed on education; safety; technology and supporting electronic equipment didn’t exist; turnout gear and SCBA was marginal at protecting us. I could go on. To add all of the dozens and dozens major changes that I have experienced, I can only sum it up by pointing out that we have become a much more professional service.


Photo by Adrian Fenty

Photo by Adrian Fenty

What do you believe is the biggest challenge that the fire service faces today?

Answer: Operational and capital Funding!   For example, I see fire stations and emergency response apparatus that are woefully in need of replacement. Many communities are not willing to make the needed financial investment to maintain (much less expand) the public safety systems that are in place. It seems like staffing often gets cut and other mission critical support items (like training programs) are significantly underfunded. Our society needs to invest in all aspects of this county’s infrastructure to keeps our nation great. Fire-rescue stations must be considered vital to our communities and properly built and maintained. There doesn’t seem like there is a universal desire to keep to on top of the failing system components because of the cost impact. As maintenance and replacements are deferred, the eventual costs will be staggering. A better public safety funding mechanism must be developed and implemented as soon as possible.

During all of your years on the job, how were/are you able to push through the darkest of times?

Answer: I would have to say that fire fighters are not quitters. When a person heads off to recruit training, they learn very quickly that our job does have a lot of ups and downs associated with our work. One of the earliest phases that I learned as a recruit was that, … “You must take the bitter with the sweet”… . Learning and understanding that there will be dark days during my career, allowed me to work through the bad days, knowing that good times are just round the corner. Most fire fighters are optimistic about our job and life in general. So it is hard to keep a member down, if they can just remember what they learned when they first was appointed to the department.

With so many of our firefighters dying each year in the Line of Duty, what are some of the things you do to help ensure “Everyone Goes Home”?

Answer: Lead by example! To start with, I follow all of our rules and regulations for safety concerns and all other operating policies. When the leader of the team buckles their seatbelt; every one of the rig will make that belt click. When the leader fails to follow procedure, we all seem to get lazy.   Always remember that someone (likely everyone) is watching, so always follow the rules because it is the right thing to do!

If you could provide some of the younger generation of firefighters with a few “words of wisdom,” what would they be?

Answer: Learn and practice the process of self-discipline in everything that you do, both on and off of the job. No one likes being a “baby sitter” and correct gown members work habits and behaviors. Further, I cant imagine that anyone would look forward to implementing discipline that takes away pay, rank or other employment from anyone. So, if the department does hires quality people (not Idiots, Thugs and Military Misfits) and the employees properly behave (self-disciplined) life will be much better for everyone associated with the department.

What is the best firehouse prank that you might have “allegedly” been involved in throughout your career?

Answer: None

I would like to personally thank Chief Rubin for taking the time to be featured in this article. I have received an outstanding amount of success while interviewing these individuals that have been featured in the Blowin’ Smoke. If you would like to be featured or know someone who you would like to see featured, contact us at