Tim Ranes, assistant Havre fire chief, sat in his office, donning the large flame-retardant pants and matching boots for what is probably the last time on Friday and reflected on his 26-year career.
“It wasn’t my chosen profession,” Ranes said, explaining he wanted to be a physical education teacher. “But I wouldn’t change a thing. The Havre Fire Department are a great bunch of guys. The city’s got a great fire department. It’s been a great environment to work in. Being able to help the people of Havre has been amazing.”
Ranes started with the department as a firefighter in the middle of August 1984, and it was a different game.
“When I first started, firefighters rode on the back of the truck, and it was fun,” Ranes said. “Now we’re much more safety-conscious.”
There are also a lot fewer fires than then, Ranes said. Better building codes and public fire prevention awareness have helped stop a lot of problems before the department is needed.
That’s not to say the department does less. Ranes said that with less fire calls has come more and more Emergency Medical Services.
In fact it was on one of those trips that Ranes had one of the most memorable experiences of his career.
“I delivered a baby about 10 or 12 years ago,” Ranes said. “Every year she brought down a cupcake on her birthday.”
Not long after that, in September 2001, Ranes was promoted to assistant fire chief, one of two administrative positions in the department — the parents, as Ranes explained, in the fire service family.
In that position, Ranes said, one of his proudest achievements was helping in securing more than $700,000 in federal funding over the last 7 years, which has gone toward two new trucks, better equipment and more fire prevention tools.
As he heads out for his last week and a half of vacation, until his official retirement on Dec. 1, Ranes had some words of advice for whoever steps into his boots.
“Have thick skin and let things roll off your back,” Ranes said. “And remember what you’re here for, the citizens of Havre.”
Fire Chief Dave Sheppard will take those traits into consideration as he finds Ranes’ replacement, however difficult that may be.
“Every time someone with 26 years of experience leaves, a lot of knowledge leaves with them,” Sheppard said. “He’s going to be missed, that’s for sure, as a friend and a colleague both.”
Ranes is headed down to Billings now, to live with his wife Lisa and daughters Lexi and Amy. It will be the first time Ranes hasn’t lived in here in his hometown, which he imagines will be difficult.
“I will definitely miss the town of Havre,” Ranes said. “I was born and raised here, so it’ll be harder than leaving the fire service.”
Putting 26 years into the stressful business of saving lives, Ranes is now ready for something more laid back.
“I want to do something mindless and fun,” Ranes said. “No, its not going to be a Wal-mart greeter, but something low-key.”
Even as he’s looking for low-key work, spending more time exploring the outdoors and relaxing in Billings, he’ll never forget his time here and his companions in the fire service.
“Every time I hear a siren, I’ll be thinking of those other guys working,” Ranes said. “It’s a tight fraternity. Once a firefighter, always a firefighter.”