Fire division chief retires after 24 years

Sunday, February 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:47 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

"I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me; To guard my every neighbor and protect his property.” This excerpt from the Fireman’s Prayer is posted on the wall of the Fire Administration building where Dan Hemmelgarn’s retirement reception was held.

With more than 24 years of service at the Columbia Fire Department under his belt, the former division chief said what he will miss most about his job is the people.

“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity and have been fortunate enough to really work with tremendous people,” Hemmelgarn said Friday afternoon as he addressed a room full of firefighters of all ranks.

These firefighters had specific memories of working with Hemmelgarn.

John Purves, a rank II firefighter, worked with Hemmelgarn for more than 19 years. They share a special friendship because they are family friends with children of the same ages. Purves said they also fought some fires together.

“One of my favorite memories is when his wife came to the station on Easter Sunday dressed in a bunny suit,” Purves said. He said having their families visit together made it feel like they weren’t missing out on holidays.

Purves said Hemmelgarn had been involved in nearly every area he could at the Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said Hemmelgarn played a crucial part in helping the department with technology and communications.

“He has left his mark on the department in many ways, but this is one big way,” Sapp said.

Dean Martin, a long-time friend of Hemmelgarn, has been promoted to division chief.

Fire Chief William Markgraf said Hemmelgarn will “leave a hole.” On behalf of the Fire Department, Markgraf said to Hemmelgarn, “We’re gonna miss you, bud.”

Hemmelgarn received a Meritorious Service Award from the city of Columbia and bronze plaque of a firefighter in full uniform from the fire department.

Now that he is retired, Hemmelgarn said he plans to revive his passions for photography and woodworking. He also said he is considering going back to school to gain more computer skills.

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