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Hiawatha Fire Chief looks back on his career as he heads into retirement

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 7:33 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -The Hiawatha Fire Chief is retiring after more than 28 years with the department. Chief Mike Nesslage served as chief for nearly 17 years. He’s the first person in Hiawatha to hold the position full time.

He comes from a long line of firefighters. His father and his grandfather were both firefighters. He volunteered at fire departments in Indiana and Ohio before moving to Iowa with his wife. A collage of photos capturing his 38 years as a firefighter.

It shows the bad times, but also a lot of good times. He loved reading to kids and being part of the Community.

“I know that we made a difference with the messages and the stuff that we did that we were able to give to the community,” he said. “Able to make people safer.”

He took over as chief in July of 2004. Hiawatha needed a full-time chief with the city growing, and expanding its medical emergency services.

“Over time we’ve grown to a number of paramedics and three fully staffed ambulance rigs,” said Nesslage. “Again, it’s the people, it wasn’t all of my work, it was the folks on the fire department that put so much time in.”

Nesslage saw an evolution of firefighting over the years, from new technology to a shift in education.

“Today fire departments concentrate a lot on fire prevention, and making people safe in the community,” he said. “Not just responding to fires and responding to medical calls, but teaching fire safety and enforcing the fire codes.”

The Chief is leaving with no regrets. “At this point, I plan on living my life and relaxing a little bit,” he said. “I got plenty of chores around the house I need to work on.”

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