Hansen retires after 30 years on the job for Big Rapids Department of Public Service

HANGING UP HIS HELMET: Two weeks shy of 30 years with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, Deputy Director Warren Hansen will retire on July 11. He began working as part-time firefighter in 1984, was hired full-time in August of 1988, was promoted to fire captain in 1998 and has been the deputy director since 2007. Warren looks back fondly on his time as a firefighter and later as deputy director. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “It’s been a great career and I’d recommend it to anybody," Hansen said. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

HANGING UP HIS HELMET: Two weeks shy of 30 years with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, Deputy Director Warren Hansen will retire on July 11. He began working as part-time firefighter in 1984, was hired full-time in August of 1988, was promoted to fire captain in 1998 and has been the deputy director since 2007. Warren looks back fondly on his time as a firefighter and later as deputy director. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “It’s been a great career and I’d recommend it to anybody,” Hansen said. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

BIG RAPIDS — The firefighting “bug,” as he calls it, unexpectedly bit Warren Hansen when he was embarking on a completely different career path.

Hansen and his wife had moved back to Big Rapids and opened a restaurant in the location now home to Patterson’s Flowers. Now, after nearly 30 years working for the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, Hansen will end that chapter of his life on July 11, retiring as deputy director.

Some regular customers of The Downtown Restaurant were those who planted the seed that Hansen might enjoy firefighting.

“Actually, the fire chief and some firefighters came in for breakfast every morning to the restaurant and they encouraged me to come and apply for a part-time position,” Hansen said. “Once I got into firefighting and started the schooling, I fell in love with it.”

Within five years, Hansen had sold the restaurant and was hooked on the new career. He began working as part-time firefighter in 1984, was hired full-time in August of 1988, was promoted to fire captain in 1998 and has been the deputy director since 2007.

He has also been involved in training firefighters throughout the state since the late 1990s and has worked on the Firefighters Training Council administering tests to firefighters.

Throughout his many years working for the Department of Public Safety, Hansen said he has seen equipment change and get better, along with changes to the way firefighters do their job.

“It’s really gone from almost just standing on the street corner and spraying water at a house, to going in right away and using foam and different chemicals we have to help put out the fire,” he said. “The way you do things has changed so much over the years and it’s been quite fun to see.”

LOOKING BACK: When Warren Hansen first began as a fire fighter, many things were different than they are today. From equipment changes and upgrades to the way firefighters do their job, many things have changed.“It’s really gone from almost just standing on the street corner and spraying water at a house, to going in right away and using foam and different chemicals we have to help put out the fire,” he said. “The way you do things has changed so much over the years and it’s been quite fun to see.” (Courtesy photo)

LOOKING BACK: When Warren Hansen first began as a fire fighter, many things were different than they are today. From equipment changes and upgrades to the way firefighters do their job, many things have changed.“It’s really gone from almost just standing on the street corner and spraying water at a house, to going in right away and using foam and different chemicals we have to help put out the fire,” he said. “The way you do things has changed so much over the years and it’s been quite fun to see.” (Courtesy photo)

As one of the department’s longest running employees, Director Andrea Nerbonne said Hansen will take with him a wealth of information when he retires.

“He has such history and knowledge with all his experience,” she said. “Just knowing Warren was around when there was a large structure fire, or something of that nature, gave me a sense of relief because of the confidence he brings to each incident.”

Hansen also is known for his ability to plan and organize large events and long-term projects. He will be remembered for the 9-11 memorial in front of DPS, which Hansen worked for more than two years on.

The 9-11 memorial project process ended with Hansen traveling to New York to bring back a steel beam from Ground Zero.

“It was significant because the attacks impacted people across the entire country and it’s important to have something to remember that here,” Hansen said. “To me it was personal because of the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to mitigate that situation.”

Retirement

While he is wrapping up a 30-year-long adventure, Hansen and his wife have plans for the next phase in their lives. They recently sold their house and plan to travel and live in a camper for about the next five years, moving around to experience new places and visit their five children scattered across the country.

They have always enjoyed camping and are looking forward to this new lifestyle, Hansen said.

“We’ve been planning this for quite a few years and it’s coming to fruition,” he said. “We’re really excited about how everything is coming together.”

While he is ready for the days of camping ahead, Hansen will miss the fire alarm ringing and being awoken in the middle of the night. He will miss the sense of family and camaraderie he has with his fellow firefighters. Most of all, he will miss being able to help people.

“That’s what I love,” he said. “It’s when they’re at their worst maybe and their house is burning, they’re having medical problems or they had a car accident. Yet, there’s a good feeling of being able to help those people out and maybe they can get through it a little easier.”

And although he will no longer be working as a firefighter, Hansen will be offering a helping hand whenever he can.

“I’m going to miss firefighting, but hopefully I’ll be able to help others without dealing with their emergencies,” he smiled.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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