Chippewa Falls, WI (WEAU) - A man who has helped fight fires for decades in Chippewa Falls for decades has retired.
Chief Tom Larson has served more than 40 years to the Chippewa Valley but at 7:00 A.M. on April 10th, he embarked on a journey of retirement.
"I [went] to school to be an electric lineman,” says 59 year old, retired Chief Tom Larson.
It was the year 1974, when Tom Larson graduated from District 1 Technology Institute, or better known as CVTC. With only 19 years behind him he searched for a job.
He says, "I saw in the paper that Chippewa Falls Fire Department was hiring part-time firefighters so I applied for that and knew this was the career I wanted to do."
After working as a reserve for six years, he was finally hired on full-time in 1980.
"I just thought it was really cool and they had a couple of big fires that I got to fight right away,” explains Larson.
As he embarked on fire after fire after fire and TV interview after TV interview after TV interview, he made his way up the ranks within the department or what he calls his family.
"You work 24 hours shifts so it’s like your second family. A 1/3 of our adult life your down here because working 24 hours shifts, you miss a variety of calls and excitement of the day,” says Larson.
At the age of 19, Tom stepped into the Chippewa Falls Fire Department. Little did he know that he would move onto become a fire chief and fight 100's of fires.
But he's says it's amazing to see how the community has changed over the past few decades. He added that over the course of 40 years, a lot of new faces have come through the department.
"Tom and I are friends as well as coworkers and there are times we don't agree one everything, but Tom was still the boss. We follow him and follow his commitment to the Chippewa Falls community,” says new Fire Chief Mike Hepfler.
Hepfler isn't a new face to Chippewa Falls, but will be a new face to the position of fire chief, with 29 years of experience behind him.
Hepfler says, "I'm excited, some days I wonder why just because I am the battalion chief. I like what I do now. I do like the shift work, but I also like the challenge.”
Mike says Tom will be missed and is aspires to one day build a new fire station. When I asked Larson why he was retiring he had this to say.
"It's getting to be a young person's job. I can still do that job but as you know I do a role as a Shift Battalion Chief. 40 years is long enough and there's really great people coming up behind me. It’s refreshing to have a department change officers. Chippewa Valley is a wonderful place and it's been and awesome career," he says.
Larson provided Chippewa Falls with 6 FEMA grants, a new snorkel truck, and a safety a feature for fire trucks and traffic signals. He also added reflectors to the backs of all the fire trucks to provide safety on the roads.