Meet the Fire Chief, James Neils

A condensed version of this interview was published in the first issue of our new “Protect & Connect” newsletter, November 2022. If you wish to be on our mailing list, please share your name and mailing address with us by emailing

James Neils became the HLFPD Fire Chief when long-serving Chief Larry Simms retired late in 2021.

Chief James Neils
James Neils
Fire Chief, EMT

When and why did you join the volunteer fire department?
June 1993, just after college… I graduated at a time when there were no jobs available in mechanical engineering so I needed something to do and being active in the community as a part of the fire department looked like a lot of fun!

What has been your biggest challenge?
As a volunteer, balancing work, volunteering, and personal lives. Currently the biggest challenge is keeping up with the demands of the job when there is so much to be done in so little time. He adds, Thank goodness for our volunteers. We always need more.

Of what accomplishments so far are you most proud?
I’m proud of being an officer since 1999 when I became the assistant chief. I’ve been an officer ever since and active the whole time, without taking leave or having a lapse in service except on vacation a few years ago. As chief, I’m also proud of the grants I have secured, my role in increasing our volunteer roster, and arranging for the RIT Prop (rapid intervention training) building behind the station which took several years.

How much training and education goes into your job?
You’re always training; the learning is ongoing. I am not always able to complete it during normal work hours, but there’s training many nights and weekends, sometimes even when I am traveling. Training is fundamental to firefighting and first response since the science evolves and leads to improvements in equipment, tools and tactics.

What about our community requires special consideration?
We have a lot of rural roads and difficult areas to access. Many places require specialized equipment to reach. Sometimes that means we can’t get there very quickly. Luckily, a benefit of being a volunteer department with members all over the district is that folks can respond directly and get there faster. The lake poses some interesting challenges…in fact, two out of the five certified ice rescue instructors in the state of Idaho are members of the Hauser Lake Fire Department. We are an ‘all hazards’ district and must be prepared for a variety of incidents, from normal fire and medical runs to train derailments, hazmat, wildland fires, ice and water rescue, extrication, and basic life support (BLS) medical. We also mutual aid to neighbors all over the region and are one of the only agencies who can provide bariatric transport around Kootenai County. Our quick response apparatus can even be upgraded to an ambulance for Kootenai County. Our people are trained and equipped for all of it.

What’s kept you a member all these years?
I really enjoy the work and the people. I enjoy helping. If you want to provide one of the biggest benefits to the community and help them in the most significant ways, join the fire department. You’ll help people during the worst times of their lives and perhaps make their situation a little better. It’s very fulfilling, very meaningful.

What is the best part? See previous answer.

What do you like least?
Clean up! There’s a lot of cleanup. This is messy work and there’s a lot of behind the scenes work needed to make it possible. Also paperwork!

Fun fact about you?
I’m a private pilot and have instructed firefighters outside of the U.S, in Canada and Europe. I taught engineering at NIC for a time. And I’m currently converting the Camaro I bought in high school to electric, with my sons. Oh, another fun fact… My son, William, just joined the department so he’s the third generation to serve in Hauser and the fourth  generation volunteer following in the footsteps of multiple grandparents. I’m proud of that for sure.

Posted 11-28-2022

Breakfast with Santa

Each December, the Hauser Lake Fire Department hosts this fund raising event, in memory of Shalena, to help a local family in need.

***Breakfast with Santa is BACK in-person in 2022!***

2022 Breakfast with Santa - Jacob - Dec 11 @ 7 am

Please help make the event a success by promoting the event. Share this web page with your friends, family, colleagues, coworkers…anyone and everyone!

You can also help us help this family by sharing the flyer each year.

The Story

Shalena was taken by cancer but her memory lives on through this treasured community event in Hauser Lake.

Shalena’s Breakfast with Santa is an annual fundraiser and community-building event sponsored by the Hauser Lake Volunteer Fire Department. The event is held on the second Sunday of each December. Over 1,000 people are served each year; attendance increases steadily as more and more friends and neighbors discover this terrific event as a way to get into the holiday spirit. Click here for public comments about this great event.

  • What: Community fundraiser which includes a raffle, visits and photos with Santa Claus, and a fantastic breakfast served by the fire fighters with help from their families, friends, and 4-H groups
  • Why: Proceeds help a local family with a child who suffers from a serious, often terminal disease.
  • When: Second Sunday in December, from 7 am to 1 pm.
  • Where: The Hauser Lake Fire Station at 10728 N. Hauser Lake Rd., Hauser, Idaho
  • Served: All-you-can-eat sausage, eggs, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, orange juice, coffee and more
  • How much: A suggested donation of $3 per person or $10 for an entire family

How Breakfast with Santa Started

Each December, the Hauser Lake Fire Department hosts this fund raising event to help a local family in need. John and Betty Mobbs started the event in 1985 when they worked to raise money to help alleviate medical bills and financial distress for the family of a Hauser Lake volunteer firefighter, Gary, whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Shalena lost her battle but her memory lives on with the Breakfast. Shalena’s Breakfast With Santa has become an annual tradition within the community of Hauser, Idaho. With help from area businesses and North Idaho citizens, proceeds go to a family with a child diagnosed with a serous illness. The children’s illnesses are often terminal.

See also the 2001 interview with Gary Mobbs about Breakfast with Santa.

Start Your Own “Breakfast With Santa”

To suggest a family as next year’s beneficiary or for questions regarding Breakfast with Santa, email



Thanks to KHQ channel 6 for letting us share this fun, 2 minute video with you. KHQ Channel 6 did a little story about Breakfast with Santa on the event’s 25th anniversary. Gary Mobbs and Lisa Wendle are interviewed.

Page last updated November 14, 2022.

Candy Cane Run 2022 – 2 Days

December 16 and 17, 2022. Join in and “double” your fun this year as the Hauser Lake Fire Protection District fire trucks give Santa and Mrs. Claus a two-day tour through Hauser, collecting food for the local food pantry and food bank. Click image below for details.

In 2021, the annual Candy Cane Run was a tremendous success. Over 1,100 pounds of food was collected and given to the Post Falls Food Bank to help our neighbors in need. We are so grateful to the Hauser Lake community.

Page posted November 5, 2022

Our First Awards Banquet in Two Years

May 15, 2022

From left to right, many of our current members: Shane Kamps, Kyle Andrews, Connie and James Lewis, John Belanger, James Neils, Tom Maddalone, Larry Shervanick, Gary Mobbs and Jared Cysewski (back), Vickie Shervanick, Katie Hron, Matt Belanger, Melissa Nickolaus, Andrea Knorpp, Shaya Hall (back), Allison Stroh, Dave Strohte, Jody Mask
Photos of Kyle and other award recipients are in our Google Photo Album.

On Sunday, May 15, current and former members of the Hauser Lake FPD / Hauser Lake Volunteer Fire Department gathered together to celebrate and recognize achievements from 2020 and 2021. There were many people to be honored, given that it had been two years since our last “annual” banquet.

The following awards and accomplishments were celebrated, with the Officers and Commissioner Maddalone speaking at various times.

  • Leadership Award: Gary Mobbs
  • Camaraderie Awards: Kyle Andrews and Dave Strohte
  • Challenge Pin was awarded by Gary Mobbs to Shane Kamps
  • Rookie of the Year: Jared C…
  • EMT of the Year: Larry Shervanick
  • Most Improved Award: Vickie Shervanick
  • Instructors recognized by their EMS students: Gary Mobbs and Shane Kamps
  • Dedication and Devotion Award: Joan Rodman
  • Retirements of Lisa Wendle with 24 and Nick Lundt with 21 years of service

Click here to see banquet photos taken by Joan and Paul Rodman (Google Photo Album). (Please contact Joan if you have images to share!)

Officers: Captain Gary Mobbs, Lieutenant Shane Kamps, Deputy Chief Tom Maddalone, and Fire Chief James Neils.

The event was made possible by the friendly and talented folks at Embers at the Lake (shown here), an extraordinary pizza restaurant on Hauser Lake. The weather was beautiful; the food was delicious; the service impeccable. Fun was had by all.

For more fun news about deserving awards recipients, see our Honors page.

Page created 5/19/2022. Updated 5/22/22.

Breakfast with Santa Flyers

Historical: Breakfast with Santa, 2004-2022

Breakfast with Santa did not occur in 2020 due to COVID-19. Breakfast in 2022 will be the 36th annual event.

Page originally posted October 24, 2018. Last updated November 6, 2022

Historic engine E720

May 17, 2021

The old-but-new-again Engine 720, which was owned several decades ago by the Hauser Lake Volunteer Fire Department, is back home again after the buyers/restorers became donors. The engine was donated back to the HLVFD this year by Marc and Marguerite Kaufman of California.

The engine’s journey home was made possible by volunteer Jody Mask and his cousin, who experienced some traffic problems on their way due to the eye-catching load they were hauling from California to Idaho!

Click any photo below to view it and flip through all of them. Photos courtesy of Jody Mask.

For all photos, see

E720 returns to Hauser 4-17-21

April 20, 2021

Drivers in Hauser Lake did a few double-takes this weekend when passing by the fire station. Many stopped to take photos as a piece of Hauser history was returned to our community, thanks to donors Marc and Marguerite Kauffman of California.

This historic engine, “E720,” was the first apparatus our current fire chief, James Neils, drove as a volunteer back in the 1990s. According to the few records found so far, it is a 1953 American LaFrance engine which was in service in Hauser Lake and fighting fires from 1974 to 1994. In approximately 1995, it was sold to the Kauffmans. Marc restored most of the mechanical portions of the truck over the twenty-five or so years he had it. This year, the Kauffmans donated the truck BACK to us!

Several volunteer firefighters and their families helped transport the engine from California to Hauser Lake last week. Watch for more news in the coming weeks. For now, it’s home again in Hauser and safely tucked away inside a back bay of the station. ~JR

E720 returns to Hauser Lake 4-17-2021
E720 donors Marc and Marguerite Kauffman of California

Chief Larry Simms’ Retirement Ceremony

On September 20, 2020, we celebrated the career of Larry Simms. He retired after 34 years of service to the Hauser Lake community and surrounding area.

A video of the ceremony, taken by Joan Rodman, has been posted on the District’s public Facebook page here (a new window should open). The video includes several very moving moments, including Chief Simms thanking his wife Elaine (also a 30+-year volunteer), shaking hands with the fire fighters, and listening to the final sign off from Captain Mobbs which was broadcast over the Kootenai County emergency dispatch system.

A few photos of the event are below. For more, please see our public Facebook page (@HauserLakeFire). You can also try this link:

Posted September 20, 2020