Fulfilling a burning desire

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Business is more than just a way to make a living; for its owner, it’s a way of life.

By PAM EGGEMEIER peggemeier@saukvalley.com 815-625-3600, ext. 5570 @pam_eggemeier

Nick Dinges is the third of four generations of firefighters in his family. After several years with the Rockford and Macomb fire departments, he decided to use his experience to help make it easier for other firefighters to do their jobs.

Dinges is owner and CEO of Dinges Fire Company in downtown Amboy. Formerly known as Illinois Fire Store, the business was started in August 2002. It now is one of the largest fire, emergency medical service, and rescue distributors in the Midwest, carrying products from more than 100 manufacturers.

Dinges, an Amboy High School graduate, lives in Sublette. For him, it was never a career choice – it was a way of life.

Growing up, he remembers riding along on fire calls with his father and brother.

“We have had nine family members in fire service, including my brother, father, and grandfather,” Dinges said. “We have about 200 years of service between all of us.”

His 81-year-old dad, Don, is in his 60th year of service, and still going strong.

“Dad’s a trustee for the Sublette Fire Protection District, after being deputy chief for many years,” Dinges said.

Brother, Tony, has been in the business for 33 years, and Nick still works as a lieutenant and paramedic with the Sublette Fire Protection District.

Dinges joined the company in its first year, and became owner and CEO in 2011. He said the name change, made earlier this year, was done to better reflect the company’s customer base.

“We have salespeople in several states now, and our online presence expands the base even more,” Dinges said.

The biggest piece of the business is protective clothing, which Dinges says accounts for about 40 percent of sales. There is a wide variety of merchandise, however, covering everything from breathing apparatus to specialty cameras and training systems.

Dinges Fire Company now has eight full-time employees and eight part-timers on staff. The company sees tremendous growth potential in the not-so-distant future.

“We hope to grow 2 to 3 times where we are now in the next 7 years,” Dinges said. “We’re looking forward to providing more good jobs in the Sauk Valley.”

The company also serves as an intermediary for helping smaller fire operations find equipment from donor departments. The type of philanthropy is very important to Dinges and Jeff Bryant, the company’s president and co-founder.

“We love when we can help donate trucks because Jeff and I came from departments that didn’t have much equipment,” Dinges said.

Dinges said they help find vehicles, extrication and turnout gear – anything they can get their hands on.

“We’re kind of like the big brothers to find solutions for the departments that have no budgets or such small ones that they can’t buy these things,” Dinges said. “Jeff’s family is full of firefighters and EMS personnel too, and it’s really one big brotherhood.”

Dinges also serves as president of Sublette 365, a nonprofit that helps with an array of village improvement projects. He is an instructor for smoke recognition training at Sauk Valley Community College, and is a member of the Amboy Education Foundation and Amboy FFA Alumni chapter.

DINGES FIRE COMPANY

Specialty: A wide variety of equipment and protective clothing for firefighters and emergency services personnel

Address: 243 E. Main St., Amboy

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday

Contact: Call 815-857-2000 or email info@dignesfire.com; customers can shop at dingesfire.com

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