ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Funeral arrangements are pending for retired Saint Louis fire chief Neil Svetanics.

The fire department announced Svetanics’ death on its twitter page. The 78-year old Svetanics died Wednesday morning after cutting short a trip to Yellowstone National Park, saying he wasn’t feeling well. He came home and had been under hospital observation, when friends say he closed his eyes “like he was going asleep.”

He retired in 1999 after 37 years with the city fire department. Current Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says Svetanics will be remembered.

“He was a very hard-driven, opinionated, type-A personality as most fire fighters are and as all fire chief’s are,” Jenkerson says.

Jenkerson says Svetanics helped modernize the department by making some interesting changes. He adds Svetanics was the first fire chief in the country to move the department to a “quint” concept – where all of their trucks were capable to do all of the jobs verses a hook and ladder.

After retiring from the city, Svetanics worked another 11 years as Chief of the Lemay Fire Department. He stepped down there in 2014.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs named him its “Fire Chief of the Year” in 1998.

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