Firefighting In Father's Footsteps

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It's one thing to love and respect your father. It's another to want to grow up to be just like him. And it's yet another to enter adulthood actually working at his side in one of the most dangerous professions there is.

That's the kind of relationship that 19-year-old Mesa del Caballo volunteer firefighter Mark "Moose" Hansen shares with his father, Frank Hansen, Mesa del Caballo's fire chief. For these two, Father's Day is not just a one-Sunday-a-year event. It's an every day, year-in, year-out celebration.

Here they are, doing just that: celebrating each other.

Frank Hansen

"When Mark was born, I had no idea we'd ever work together," Frank said. "Heck, I had no idea we'd be in Arizona. I'd been working as a mining-industry rescue safety officer in the Yukon. My in-laws lived in Payson, and we came here on vacation ... We hadn't planned on moving here. It was sort of like, 'Why not?'

"I'd been in the firefighting business since 1967. Mark we called him 'Moose' because, when he was a baby, we fed him potatoes and moose meat out of the blender didn't seem to pay a whole lot of attention to firefighting until about two years ago.

"All of a sudden it happened. He became a cadet, then he got special permission to take the Firefighter One and Two courses with the stipulation that he couldn't take the exam until he was 18. He was one of the youngest certified firefighters in the area. Now he's a volunteer firefighter with us, and he works as an emergency medical technician for the Life Star ambulance service. It's become a passion of his.

"We've done a lot of fires and emergency calls together. There was one fire where I was back at the engine in the command position, and I saw him silhouetted against the flames, and I just said a little prayer. But I've tried to distance myself as far as I can, because I don't want to show him any favoritism at all. But he is a very aggressive, well-rounded firefighter and EMT. I hold him in very high regard and that's the fire chief talking, not the dad.

"In a pinch, he would definitely be one of the firefighters I would depend on for being well-trained and for having enough common sense to know what to do in any situation.

"I've always been proud of him. He's a well-rounded kid. He's actually been to church. As far as kids are concerned, you just couldn't ask for better.

"What do I hope he gives me for Father's Day? I'd like to go fishing with him."

Mark "Moose" Hansen

"One night, I saw my dad and his crew putting out a fire by our house, and just decided that's what I wanted to do," Mark Hansen said. "The excitement of it all really made it look like the perfect job to have.

"My dad is the whole reason I am the person I am today. The most important thing he gave to me was love and support. He stood behind me in all of the decisions I've made on the things I've wanted to do and the things I've needed to do.

"When we're on a fire together, I worry about him sometimes. He's a bit more special than just a chief. He's my father. I call him chief. I have to call him chief. It's more professional that way.

"When I first joined, I'd call him 'Dad, er, chief, er, dad, er Chief...' But I finally got it straight. But when no one else is around, I call him Dad.

"Working with him is awesome. He helps me along and he gives me advice, not only as a chief but as a dad. The best advice he ever gave me in the career field would probably be 'Don't get yourself killed.' In my personal life, it was 'Just be who you are and don't let anybody change who you are.'

"What will I be getting him for Father's Day? Oh, wow, I forgot that it's Father's Day. He's such a tough person to get things for. I don't know yet.

"He said he wants me to take him fishing? Ah! Yeah! That's a great idea! I won't have to spend anything!"

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