Deputy Chief Steve Grass, Chief of Investigations for the Division of Fire Safety, is no stranger to the fire service. Steve started out riding tail board on the Marywood Fire Deparment in Aurora, Illinois in 1980. When he moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas in 1981 to attend college. He served on the Northeast Lakeside Fire Department until 1985 when he was accepted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol to attend the recruit academy. After graduating the patrol academy, Steve requested to be stationed near the Arkansas border for his love of the Ozarks. He was stationed in Macon-Shelby counties! There, he learned the difference between a draft pond and sewage lagoon!
Steve became the Assistant Chief of Shelbina Fire Department and was a member of FFAM and the Northeast Missouri Firefighter’s Association. Steve served on the Shelbina Fire Department until 1990 when he requested a transfer to Troop (Region) G, Wright County. “I loved the people in Shelby County, but I hated the winters, “ said Steve. “If I could pack the folks up and take them with me, I would have,” he said. Steve soon joined the Mansfield Fire Department where he was chosen to be assistant chief. “I was very pleased with how the department was very close knit and worked very well with the surrounding county departments,” said Steve. One of his biggest hurdles was the challenge of going through and ISO evaluation. “One day a gentleman walked into the station and said he was from ISO and was doing a courtesy check of their records. He said it had been several years since we had an ISO evaluation, we were an ISO-6. He said, “we are showing your front line pumper was a 1960 Chevrolet and your second due was a 1938 Ford? What do you have now?” This was 1993, I told him, “a 1960 Chevrolet and a 1938 Ford!” He said, “we need to talk.”
Fast forward, Steve helped the department secure more apparatus and build a new station to house the new equipment in order to maintain their ISO-6 rating. Steve also helped start up a county wide fire chief’s meeting. “Maintaining communication is a must before a situation occurs. We as Chiefs learned a lot from each other.”
In 1994, Steve took as position with the patrol as canine handler for Troop G. With that, he covered a nine county area, in addition to any other statewide special assignments that may occur. “This position gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with many agencies in Missouri. I would always try to drop in and say ‘hi’ to law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and ambulance districts when I was in the area. Making relationships is very important when working in a specific area,” Steve said. Since this position was criminal in nature, it made Steve a better investigator. “You learn how to read people and listen to people. Sometimes we talk too much and forget to listen.”
Steve finished out his patrol career after thirty-one years. But, instead of ‘retire’ he chose to ‘re-tread’. “I felt I did all I could with the highway patrol and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I needed something to mentally further myself.” Steve saw that Deputy Chief Bill Zieres had retired and his position was available. Steve said, “I saw Chief Zieres’ position open and I thought to myself, that’s right up my alley!” Steve accepted the position and started with the division on July 3, 2017. “I have an amazing investigation team. I have worked with many of the investigators over the years and I have a great admiration for them,” Steve said.
Steve and his family reside in Osage Beach. Steve’s wife, Carol, is a district manager for Dollar General. They have two children, Stepheni, 12, and Kelley, 10. Steve formally operated 10-99 Products, LLC. The business provided new and used emergency vehicle equipment. He closed the business after eight years when he accepted the position of deputy chief. “Our business was very busy and demanding and there was no way I could effectively do my chief job and the business at the same time.” Steve was proud to display his LaFrance bar at the FFAM Convention and MU FRTI Winter Fire School Expo at their booth. “I saw a LaFrance sitting in a farm field near Hartville one day. I knew the folks, but I knew they had no connection to a fire truck. When I asked them about it, they said they were going to scrap it. I told them I needed the front off of it. They delivered it the next day!” Steve had Missouri Fire Apparatus build a frame and repaint the front end to complete the display. “I did a little ‘light magic’ and there it is!”
Steve also has a collection of fire memorabilia and old toy fire trucks. He said he lost count, but estimates around 425 trucks. Steve likes taking his kids for a ride in his tin lizzy go-cart fire truck. They try and hit the local parades. Steve’s wife, Carol, does quilting and custom cakes in her spare time. They look forward to blending into the Lake of the Ozarks activities this next summer.