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Mascoutah Fire Chief Joe Zinck Talks Retirement; Future Plans

Above, Fire Chief Joe Zinck stands in front of the Mascoutah Fire Department’s most recent vehicle, acquired in September of 2022. It is a state of the art fire fighting truck, equiped with anything a firefighter would need.

By Zachary Daum

Mascoutah Fire Chief Joe Zinck has been at the Mascoutah Fire Department since 1987 and when he exits on December 31, he will have been chief for 13 years. The second of three generations of firefighters, Zinck balances his work as a beer distributor at Robert “Chick” Fritz, Inc. in Belleville, of which he will stay on as an employee after retiring as fire chief. Zinck’s father, Joe Zinck Senior, was a firefighter who served in Mascoutah and son, Greg Zinck, having served on the Mascoutah firefighter roster, as well as serving in St. Louis.

Zinck said that now that he’s 61, it’s time to retire. “Just time, a lot of other stuff. I’m 61, or will be, and I just have a lot of stuff in my life that I’d, you know, move on to the next chapter and this place has been everything for me. I live and breathe it and I don’t plan on going away totally. I’m just not going to run fire calls anymore. I want to be around as a member of the organization, but it’s just time to move on and let the next group come up.”

Zinck continued, explaining his faith in incoming Mascoutah Fire Chief and former Assistant Fire Chief Rob Stookey. “Rob Stookey will be fire chief. He was my assistant chief the twelve years I was chief and so I have nothing but confidence there. There’s probably things they want to do a little different than I did them and that needs to move (forward). And I just felt that for hanging on, I’d be doing it for me, not for the organization. To me the (fire department) organization is the most important thing. I just can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys, the people, our officers, and there’s going to be quite a little changeover. Nothing that Rob Stookey and his crew won’t be able to handle, because I think they’re on it, and I want to work with them. I’ll be around as long as they need to ask questions.”

Speaking of his most memorable moments, Zinck tearfully remembered a recent call in which he felt proud to see those under him, especially incoming Fire Chief Rob Stookey, taking charge of a situation where a house was on fire. “I was the third chief at a fire on July 4th (of this year). There was a house that caught fire due to some fireworks. We got called and by the time I got there I didn’t really do anything. I was able to watch what was going on and the calls (the other Mascoutah fire fighters) made, I didn’t care where I was in the country, nobody was going to do a better job than that group right there. That makes me really proud. We’ve fought a lot of fires, all kinds and we make our mistakes too, but that particular night I watched and was like wow. It really gets me. It means a lot. Those guys work so hard.”

Another important moment Zinck mentioned in his career was 13 years ago when he was voted by his peers to be chief. “It’s actually an appointment by the city and district and they’ve always taken recommendations. This group here elected me to be Chief and that was overwhelming. I hope I didn’t let anyone down. And then seeing my son join the fire department and move up in the ranks. Today he’s a full time firefighter in the city of St. Louis. That makes me extremely proud. I got to pin the badge on him myself.”

Mascoutah Mayor Pat McMahan said of Zinck’s retirement, “I’d like to congratulate Joe Zinck on his retirement from the Mascoutah Fire Dept. He has had a great career ending with a long run as the Fire Chief. He followed as Fire Chief in the impressive footsteps of people such as Dean Juenger and my good friend the Late Kenny Hamann. I wish Joe the very best in retirement and look forward to working with Rob Stookey in his role as the new Fire chief. Greg Moll is also retiring as Deputy Fire Chief, with Paul Hefner replacing him. Ryan Haas will become Assistant Fire Chief, replacing Rob Stookey. Congratulations to all of them and I thank them for their service over the years.”

Stookey said of Zinck’s retirement, “We have some big shoes to fill, it’s going to be a big void but Joe has gotten the fire department to where it is today. I feel like we can continue what he’s started.”

During this interview Stookey received a fire call, and after handling the situation he continued. “I got into the fire department in 1996 and Joe was a mentor to me and a lot of other guys, not just in Mascoutah but in his teaching days at SWIC. He’s taught hundreds of kids not only in Mascoutah but in the whole region. There are other fire chiefs in the area Joe taught. I can’t say enough about what he’s done personally as a firefighter. It’s a good feeling that he’s given me the tools to help steer the ship. We’ve got some great guys below me. I wish him the best. I know he’s retiring but he said he isn’t going to be a stranger which is good because I’m going to rely on him with some things yet.”

As to what he wants to do after retiring? “I love hunting and fishing, and I haven’t done much of that in the last 15 or 20 years,” Zinck said. “And I’m a grandpa now, so I got to leave quite a bit of time for that because it’s very important to me that I leave time for that.”

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