He’s battled blazes for 31 years, but now Saskatoon’s top firefighter is hanging up his helmet for the last time.
Saskatoon Fire Department chief Dan Paulsen will retire at the end of the month after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60. He passes the reins to his second in command, Morgan Hackl.
“It’s been a great career. I don’t think I could have found anything that I found more satisfying, and as every firefighter can attest to, it’s something you wear on your heart,” Paulsen said, adding retirement didn’t hit home until Jan. 1, 2015.
However, Paulsen’s career could have taken a much different path, had it not been for a friendly fire inspector.
The chief started as a store manager in Saskatoon and thought his career was set. He befriended the fire inspector who came through the store a couple times and always spoke highly of his own job. Paulsen began to realize he needed a change and when he heard the fire department was hiring, he decided to go for it.
He fought fires with the no.4 battalion for 16 years where became involved in several safety programs. He then moved on to assistant chief of the training division, assistant chief of community relations, and finally acting chief before assuming the chair in the spring of 2013.
Paulsen leaves a staff of 334 people, including 280 firefighters, at nine fire halls in the hands of current assistant chief Morgan Hackl. Hackl will assume the role of chief on August 1 and Paulsen said he can retire without a worry.
“I have absolutely every bit of confidence in Morgan and the management team and our local in order to move forward with these issues,” he said.
Paulsen predicts firefighters everywhere will face new challenges in the coming years. In particular, he said the lightweight construction of homes and other buildings will pose a significant hurdle.
“The older style dimensional lumber construction, we would consider 20 minutes of stability if you had structural impingement and now we’re down to four to six minutes,” he said, adding a physically expanding city will only add to the challenge.
Paulsen witness changes in technology, equipment, training and a growing city, adding every day was a learning experience.
“I was down lecturing in Louisiana and I was talking about our issues with basement fires and all of a sudden I realized there’s this blank stare in the audience because they really don’t have basements,” he said. “You learn different perspectives of how we go after the job.”
He hopes to use this experience and knowledge as a consultant for Saskatoon and other fire departments. Travel and spending more time with wife Gloria and two and a half year old granddaughter are also high on his priority list.
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