When Dennis Doan started with the Boise Fire Department in 1991, his training officer was a guy who taught the young recruit to be serious but at the same time to have fun.
That’s a lesson Doan, now the department’s chief, never forgot.
On Sunday morning, Doan woke to a phone message that his mentor, retired fire Capt. Michael McNeill, 64, had died Saturday evening after his vehicle rolled on Arrowrock Road northeast of Boise.
“It breaks my heart to think about it,” Doan said Monday.
McNeill, who grew up in Boise and never left, was thrown from his vehicle at milepost 8.3. He was heading up the road to go target shooting, said Mike Johnson, a deputy Boise County coroner.
Boise County’s dispatch office received a call reporting the accident at about 6 p.m. McNeill died from blunt force trauma before emergency personnel got to the scene.
He did a good job serving the community. It hurts my heart.
Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan
McNeill graduated from Boise High School in 1970 and went to work for the fire department in August 1978. He rose through the ranks and retired as a captain on March 30, 2005.
McNeill followed his father, Creighton “Tom” McNeill, as a Boise firefighter. Tom McNeill died in a plane crash in 1964. And Michael McNeill’s brother, Joseph McNeill, also served as a firefighter with the department.
Michael McNeill was one of the original members of the department’s dive team, Doan said. He served on the board of the Boise Fire Department Credit Union and for many years chaired the Boise Burnout Fund operated by members of Boise Fire Union Local 149.
“I remember how much he enjoyed helping people. Our burnout fund helped people after the fires,” said Doan, who became burnout fund chairman after McNeill. “Not only did he fight the fire, but then he had a briefcase with him that he carried on the engine and then he was able to write the people a check to help them get through the next few days.”
“Mike really enjoyed that part of the job,” he said.
Doan worked with McNeill on Engine 5 and the two men owned a duck-hunting boat together.
Doan said McNeill always looked at the positive.
“There are givers and takers in this world. He was definitely a giver,” Doan said. “He made you feel good to be around him, and his attitude was infectious.”
McNeill is survived by his wife, Patty, and four grown children, Mitzi, Tony, Angela and Tom. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren.
Services are pending. The Boise Fire Department Pipes and Drums group will perform, and Doan said he expects a large turnout from active and retired firefighters.