Veteran firefighter brings combination of youth and experience to new job

by: VERN UYETAKE - Gert Zoutendijk is excited about his new challenge as fire marshal for Lake Oswego.One of the perks of being the Lake Oswego fire marshal is that you get a bigger office.

Gert Zoutendijk is glad to make the transition from the office he used as deputy fire marshal, which was also used for such things as storing the dummy used in water rescue simulations on Oswego Lake.

“This is definitely a higher class of dungeon,” Zoutendijk said with a smile.

Zoutendijk is more than ready for his new endeavor. He served as LO’s deputy fire marshal for 14 years under Phil Sample, who recently retired after 36 years of service with the Lake Oswego Fire Department. Sample had been grooming Zoutendijk as his successor for a long time, especially during the past four years.

“Phil helped me get ready for this job by giving me assignments that would help me become a fire marshal,” Zoutendijk said. “I was given assignments that raised my level of preparedness and got me ready. The transition has been very smooth. I’m very excited about what is ahead.”

Giving Zoutendijk a big vote of confidence is LOFD Chief Ed Wilson, who has been impressed with Zoutendijk’s performance ever since he became the chief more than eight years ago.

“It has been pretty exciting to watch Gert grow over the years,” Wilson said. “He has a unique combination of skills and talents for the job. He also has a passion for this community and keeping it safe, while also minimizing costs and delays for businesses and the city.”

Zoutendijk will soon be faced with the tasks of assuring the city fire code compliance for two huge new building projects coming to Lake Oswego, Kruse Way Village and the renovation of the Wizer building. He believes his past experience will serve him well on these big jobs.

“The fun, exciting and challenging part is doing things out of the box,” Zoutendijk said. “Not just pick up a notebook and say, ‘Here’s the code.’ Being a city like this we have some oddball things once in awhile. There’s never a dull moment.”

A former choirboy and photographer in his native Holland, Zoutendijk first visited the U.S. as a teenager. He came to this country for good in 1995 and soon began his career as a firefighter. In 1998 he joined the Lake Oswego Fire Department.

Zoutendijk will soon be joined by the new deputy fire marshal for Lake Oswego, David Smith, former deputy fire marshal for Vancouver, Wash.

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