April 8, 2019
Writer: Virginia Henry

After 36 years of public service, Fire Chief Dave Hanneman is retiring from the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

“I knew when I was about 8 years old that I was going to be a firefighter,” Hanneman said. “I grew up in southern California and there was a television show called Emergency on… once I saw that… I thought, ‘Well, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.’”

Hanneman has served in about every position there is in a fire department. Besides Fire Chief, he’s been a driver, captain, battalion chief, deputy chief of operations, and fire marshal.

He’s worked for four different departments all together. He started in Boise part-time and ended up retiring from there after 25 years. After that he went to San Diego County California as a fire chief for 6 years. He was planning on retiring from there.

Hanneman has taught at Idaho State University for around 12 years. One of his students told him about the job opening for fire chief in Idaho Falls and he jumped at the chance to come back to Idaho.

“It’s been just great. I love the outdoors ... the people in Idaho are just much different and the fire service in Idaho is much different from California so it just kind of drew me back here,” Hanneman explained.

Out of all of the positions he has held and places he has served, Hanneman said Idaho Falls has been the highlight of his career.

“My time in Idaho Falls has been the best of my 36 year career because I got to help the department grow and become more efficient and really become leaders in fire service in Idaho,” Hanneman said.

When he started working at the Idaho Falls Fire Department, it hadn’t really changed for 20 years. He said the department was behind in the numbers of ambulances available and it was housed in an 85-year-old building.

Hanneman explained he is a data-driven fire chief. So, he gathered data and used that to support proposed changes and improvements.

“We were having a lot of calls that were delayed in responding to,” Hanneman said.

Once elected officials saw the data they supported Hanneman.

Since then they have added 28 new positions and 8 ambulances. They built a new station downtown and changed their insurance rating.

When Hanneman arrived, the insurance rating was a class three. Now they are a class two. Nampa is the only other city that has a class two insurance rating in Idaho. Due to that change, everyone’s fire insurance was reduced close to 10 percent, Hanneman said.

When talking about what it takes to be a fireman Hanneman said you have to be humble.

“You have to have a passion for learning and training all the way up to the end,” Hanneman commented.

He exclaimed that you’re never done learning as a firefighter. He’s still getting training and keeping his certifications current.

“If you want to be a firefighter you have to have a whole career of learning and training,” Hanneman said.

He also advises prospective firefighters to be committed. He’s done hundreds of interviews over his career and said that he looks for candidates who are going to stay and commit to that department.

“A lot of folks go to colleges now and if you look at the statistics there, they are learning different careers and they may change their careers during their adult life. Firefighters don’t do that,” Hanneman said.

With Hanneman’s retirement he said he and his wife will take a little vacation. He will continue teaching Emergency Management and Fire Science at Idaho State University.

“I’m not stepping out of everything,” Hanneman assured. “We’re looking forward to new opportunities and the next chapter in my life.”