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Hanging up
the helmet

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Janski retires from Rice Fire Department

By Anna Hinnkemeyer
Staff writer

  A uniform hangs in the locker and a helmet is sitting on the shelf awaiting its next fire call, but ownership has been passed on. As a member of the Rice Fire Department, Joe Janski retired the need for turnout gear and a pager July 1. He can rest a little easier now without the call to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to help those in need.
    “I already miss the camaraderie,” Joe said. “I had a lot of different experiences, and I am certainly going to miss the job. But I can’t move as fast as I used to. It’s a young man’s game, and it was time for me to go.”
    Joe joined the Rice Fire Department in 1986, after his brother Steve and some friends encouraged him. He saw how much Steve enjoyed being a part of the department, and Joe was looking for a way to help the community.
    Joe retires from the Rice Fire Department with 34 years of experience. His extensive knowledge will be missed by the department, said Rice Fire Chief Scott Janski, who is Joe’s nephew.
    Joe’s knowledge of how fire affects structures was useful to the younger members.
    “Fires are fewer, and regulations and restrictions make it harder to do training burns in donated houses,” Scott said. “We end up doing them in burn simulators to get a similar experience, but it is still not a real house. Joe’s knowledge was valuable.”
    Joe played key roles and helped the develop the department. He was one of the first emergency medical technicians and was instrumental in obtaining the department’s first automated external defibrillator. He also helped create the hiring and testing process for new firefighters and was on the hiring committee for many years.
    One of the biggest differences Joe has seen in his career is in training. When he started, much of his training was done with a hands-on approach. Today, firefighters go through schooling and adhere to tighter regulations to become a certified firefighter. First response training is also a requirement.
    As a captain Joe has helped train the next generation of firefighters.
    “His training as captain has really helped, and having him as an EMT brought our medical response up and encouraged others to gain that knowledge and certification,” Scott said. “He used his experience to prepare them for their careers here and has become a mentor for many.”
    Joe said there are many calls that stick out in his mind, some good and others not so much. But Joe’s most satisfying part of the job was when people involved in the calls came back to thank the department for the service later on.
    “I felt I was giving back a little bit by serving on the department,” Joe said. “When people would come back and thank us, that was such a rewarding experience.”
    Joe’s favorite part of being on the department is the people he served with and the friendships he built.
    “I have really enjoyed working with the guys in this department, and it seemed like everyone always got along well,” Joe said.
    A month after retirement, Scott has already been missing Joe on the department.
    “Joe was dedicated to the department and the community,” Scott said. “He was one of the first to step up if something needed to be done, and he will be missed.”