04-29 02 ZF benefit jw .jpg (copy)

Zumbro Falls Fire Chief Dan Preble shows off a part of the city's fire station in this May 2014 file photo. Preble, 51, died Wednesday. 

ZUMBRO FALLS — There will be a hole to fill in Zumbro Falls.

Fire Chief Dan Preble, 51, died Wednesday. 

Zumbro Falls Mayor Bruce Heitmann said the news came as a surprise. 

"We just had an officer's meeting Monday and he was good," Heitmann said. "And he was in Hammond Tuesday, and everything was fine. It's kind of a surprise, a wake-up call."

Heitmann, who is also the assistant fire chief for the Zumbro Falls Fire Department, said Preble had been with the department for more than 30 years, and had served as chief for the last eight.

That job, including turning out for fire and other emergency calls, included more mundane tasks like setting the budget, working with the townships the department serves, and keeping up on equipment needs for his fellow firefighters. 

For example, Preble was in the middle of helping the fire department select a new truck. "He's still the leader of all of that," Heitmann said. 

Now those duties and others will be picked up by the rest of the members of the fire department, Heitmann said. 

But more than missing his fire chief, the mayor said he'll miss a friend he's known for decades. As a boy, Preble lived near the mayor in town, but after the flood in 2010, when many residents moved to homes on higher ground, Heitmann said he was happy to see his new neighbor was his old neighbor. 

"I've lived beside him since he was a kid," Heitmann said.

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Regional Reporter

Brian Todd is a 1997 graduate of Nebraska-Omaha. He covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties and writes a weekly column about the life of a reporter.