Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. Last Saturday, at the Timberline Fire Protection District awards ceremony, recently appointed chief Paul Ondr was a bit nervous before he got up to speak to his family of volunteer firefighters. He certainly isn’t nervous about taking over the leadership position of the district in which he already spends much of his time, however.
Although he has a full-time position with the West Metro Fire Department, he knows he can carry on his responsibilities as TFPD chief and he and his wife, Jenny, and son, Blake, are up for the challenge. Blake, 7, says he likes that his dad will be chief with Timberline, because, “Now he’ll get paid.”
Ondr grew up in St. Louis and then moved to Denver where he attended Cherry Creek High School. He says he had no thoughts at all of becoming a firefighter. After high school, he went to Fort Lewis College.
“I lived on campus and did horribly, but somehow I got mixed up with the volunteer fire department Hermosa Cliff.
I had been heavy into Jeeping and one of the guys was a volunteer. I began to realize that I didn’t want a job in a cubicle. I was kind of lost and didn’t know what to do and decided to find out how one becomes a fireman.”
Ondr enrolled in the Red Rocks Fire Science program in which he could earn a two-year associate’s degree. He also worked in construction. One day he decided to jump into his new career and knocked on the door of the Fairmount Volunteer Fire Department and became a volunteer. After a year at Red Rocks, he tested for a position at West Metro and got on the hiring list.
About three years later, WM hired him and he moved out of his parents’ house and rented a house with four other firefighters. At this time, he and Jenny, who he had known in high school, were both single and they went out for her 21st birthday. “I went out on a limb and took her out to dinner,” says Ondr. “When we walked out a limo was waiting for us.”
Jenny was in her last year at CSU and even though she attended classes in Fort Collins, she moved in with Ondr and commuted. When she graduated with a degree in psychology, the couple became engaged.
At this time, Ondr was attending paramedic school with West Metro. Jenny earned her Master’s Degree in Human Resources. In 2009, they had a friend who lived in Golden Gate Estates and the Ondrs found a house in the area as well.
After living in Golden Gate, Ondr retired from his volunteer position at Fairmount, which he had held for 15 years, and in 2011 became a volunteer for the Timberline district, signing on with the board of directors. After four years, he was re-elected. At that time, the couple had a child and made the decision to move back to Golden because of the schools, the commute and the weather. He had rented out his house in Golden and the couples simply exchanged dwellings.
He lived in Golden, worked at West Metro as an engineer and a paramedic and volunteered with TFPD. Five years later, this past December, chief Levy called him to say he was retiring and asked Ondr if he would consider being chief of Timberline.
“At first I said no and then I talked to Jenny and Blake and they said I spent all my time up here anyway, so I decided to give it a shot, but it would be a part-time position, with three excellent assistant chiefs to run it here: Chris Schimanskey, Chip Smith and Galen Koepke.”
On January 23, 2017, at 7 p.m., there will be a meeting discussing the position at Station 7.