Retiring firefighter recalls rewards, challenges during 23 years of service

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHATFIELD FIRE DEPARTMENT Tim Danielson recently retired from the Chatfield Fire Department after 23 years of fighting fires and working within the community.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“I have had the honor of being part of the Chatfield Fire Department since June 17, 1996, when Jerry Spelhaug retired. I joined after a couple of talks with a coworker that was on another volunteer department, and Kevin Tuohy, chief at the time, convinced me in giving it a try. I joined because I wanted to give back to the community and help the ones that needed help at any given time. I had some friends on the department when I got on, so it made it easier,” recounted Tim Danielson, retiring his firefighter’s turnout gear and pager after 23 years as a Chatfield firefighter.

He shared, “As a little kid, I was enthused about the fire department. I like working with my hands, and when Jerry retired, I was fortunate to be on the list and they took me in. I absolutely love to charge in and put a fire out. The one thing I enjoy is getting into the brunt of it, being involved, being in the heat of the moment. It’s an adrenaline thing. It’s rewarding to save someone’s house or outbuilding.”

He’s been part of numerous training exercises and held offices within the department and the fire relief association, too. He served as treasurer of the Chatfield Fire Department Relief Association and treasurer of the fire department for many years.

“Training consists of a lot of hours and simply learning new techniques to get things done,” Danielson added. “I have enjoyed the hands-on training and using the new equipment we have put into service.”

He recalls that many things have changed over the years, but most importantly, the equipment the department uses today is much safer and faster.

“Everything is so much better-equipped, and we have better protective gear,” Danielson said. “The tools are so much lighter, safer and faster. Just like anything else, technology has come a long way in 23 years. The trucks are more advanced and better equipped than they once were. Chatfield has been blessed to be on the cutting edge with equipment and trucks over the years.”

Training requirements have increased over the two decades he’s carried a pager, and it’s become a more intense commitment. “I enjoy most everything. Training…there’s a lot more training than there used to be. It’s required with the new equipment. You’ve got to train with the new stuff,” Danielson said. “There’s stuff you don’t use on a daily basis that you have to keep doing because you may not get to use it for a year, but you’ve got to know how to use it at any given time.”

Interruptions have peppered his days and nights throughout the years, and he’s had the support of his family as he’s missed various events and dinners. “You just sit down to eat, and the pager goes off. Fortunately, my family has supported me on this journey. You never know, when the pager goes off, if you’re going to be gone for one hour or three hours, so family support is huge,” he said. “I will not miss hearing the pager go off in the middle of the night for a call and getting home to crawl in bed but not fall asleep, as the adrenaline is still going. And probably the hardest thing about this is dealing with people you’re close to – many times, I’ve been paged out to an accident after my kids have started driving and weren’t home when I left the house. It was on my mind and driving me crazy to get called in the middle of the night when they’re not home. It’s probably been one of the things that’s bothered me most.”

He explained why he chose to complete his firefighting career this year. “I decided to retire as I am getting up there in age and we had a very good recruitment of firefighters coming up. In this job, everything is heavy and the work is intense – better said, ‘It’s a young man’s game.’ We’ve had excellent leadership, and during my journey, I have made many wonderful friends that I call extended family, several great experiences and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime,” Danielson said. “We have been very fortunate to have excellent leadership, dedication and comradeship within this tight bond of firefighters. We are one big family working beside one another at the scene or simply one of the many functions we host, like the Trout Classic.”

Danielson stated, “For me, this is bittersweet because this is a great service I’ve enjoyed. On my last day, we had a little party. I’m closing a chapter in my life, and tonight (Monday, July 1) will be the first night I won’t be going to a meeting. But my son, James, is on the department, and that’ll be nice to stay in contact. It’s been neat to have my son on the department. He’s been on for a couple of years, and it’s fun to see him follow in my footsteps.”