Tyler becomes new Sweet Home fire chief

Benny Westcott

Nick Tyler was sworn in Tuesday, May 17, as the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District’s newest fire chief.

He succeeds Dave Barringer, who’d held the position since 2014.

The 44-year-old Tyler, a Sweet Home resident, is a former Lebanon Fire District battalion chief, having served in that capacity since 2017. He was also an engineer and paramedic at the department from 2007 to 2015, when he became its lieutenant of recruitment and retention.

“I thank the board for running a good hiring process, and Chief Barringer for making the transition as smooth as possible,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. It’s very nice to be home.”

He’s already seen people he knows on emergency calls.

“We ran a medical call today where there were familiar faces,” Tyler recounted. “I’ve missed that aspect of it, being in Lebanon for 15 years. There’s a desire to do the right thing, but it’s nice to come back home and do it to people you know, or you know their family and care about. That element has been really nice.”

He’s worked for the Sweet Home department before, as a firefighter/paramedic in both paid and volunteer capacities from 2002 to 2007.

“It all comes back to the community,” Tyler said, adding that he wasn’t looking to leave Lebanon, but had been intrigued for years by the Sweet Home fire chief position.

“When this job came open, I was at a great point in my career in Lebanon, and they did a great job in training me and getting me ready, but when this opportunity came up, it felt like the right move, coming home and taking the helm and leading [SHFD] into the future,” Tyler said.

The departing Barringer said he and Tyler hit the pavement hard before the swearing-in ceremony, introducing the incoming leader around town.

“There’s been a lot of smiles and handshakes and everybody’s welcoming, both in the fire district and in the community,” Tyler said. “Right now, it’s all about meeting everybody. I haven’t been here in 15 years, so there’s about 70 to 80% of the fire district personnel that I don’t know. So I want to touch base and build those relationships.”

“I really want to sit down with the leadership of the fire department and do an analysis and look at what we do well,” he continued. “I think in a time of transition, it’s a great opportunity to ask those questions, like what we do well and where we can improve and look to build upon what Dave has done. We’ve been out and did the rounds and talked to a lot of shareholders and community members. It’s been really nice. It’s been a very warm reception, and I’m very humbled by that.”

Before becoming a firefighter, Tyler served as a gunner’s mate second class in the United States Navy from 1997 to 2001. During his previous Sweet Home stint, he earned an associate of applied science degree in general studies at Linn-Benton Community College in 2004, the same year he received a paramedic degree from Chemeketa Community College, where he later earned a fire science degree in 2010. In addition, he recently completed a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration at Eastern Oregon State University.

Tyler also served as a special deputy/SWAT paramedic with the Linn County Regional SWAT Team from 2010 to 2017 and is currently a division supervisor at the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office in Salem.

Among his professional accolades are the Security Alarm Corporation’s Public Safety Recognition Award in 2015 and Lebanon Fire District’s Officer of the Year honors the following year.

Tyler has been active in his community as a board member of the Sweet Home Swim Club and both Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam, where he’s also coached youth sports. This past season, he was an assistant for the Sweet Home High School girls’ basketball team.

He and his wife, Rachel, a registered nurse at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, have two children, Aiden and Chloe, both of whom were just as active in Sweet Home sports programs. Aiden, a 2021 graduate, starred as a quarterback on the Huskies’ football team and now plays for Western Oregon University; Chloe, a multi-sport athlete, has signed to swim for Illinois State University next year.

Reflecting on the ceremony and the changing of the guard, Barringer said, “It was a little bit emotional for me, because it was an eight-year investment of my time and effort here. But on the other hand, I’m super-excited for Nick, and I’m excited for the fire district. I feel like he’s going to do a really good job. I’ve been nothing but impressed with him thus far. It’s a pretty exciting time.”

An invitation-only retirement dinner for Barringer will be held at the Elks Lodge on June 3.