Willmar’s new fire chief settles into his dream job

WILLMAR -- Frank Hanson, who has decades of firefighting and law enforcement experience, achieved a lifelong goal last week when he began his role as the new Willmar fire chief.

Frank Hanson
Willmar native Frank Hanson started his new job as the town’s fire chief last week. He is pictured Tuesday at the fire station. (GARY MILLER | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - Frank Hanson, who has decades of firefighting and law enforcement experience, achieved a lifelong goal last week when he began his role as the new Willmar fire chief.
Hanson has worked for the Willmar Fire Department for 22 years, his most recent position being deputy chief of operations. He was also employed for about 20 years as an officer in the Willmar Police Department.
Hanson said his interest in firefighting started as a childhood dream and evolved over the years and into a lifelong career.
He officially began his role as Willmar fire chief June 22, after the former Willmar fire chief, Gary Hendrickson, resigned from his position at the end of April to take a position as deputy fire chief with the Brooklyn Center Fire Department.
A Willmar native, Hanson began visiting the Willmar Fire Station as a child and was fascinated by the lights and sirens of the fire trucks. The adrenaline that comes with being a firefighter, combined with the ability to help those in need, continued to draw Hanson further into the career. “I enjoy helping people. I enjoy being out in the community, talking to people, just the fact that I can help when someone needs it the worst,” Hanson said.
Hanson began his career with the Willmar Fire Department and the Willmar Police Department after graduating from Willmar Senior High School and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Hanson said his relationship with his co-workers is what has made him stay with the Willmar Fire Department.
“I think mostly I like working with the firefighters. They are a great group of people who are dedicated to the city. I’ve worked with these guys a long time,” Hanson said.
During Hanson’s most recent role as deputy chief of operations, he managed equipment, maintenance and fire ground operations. After two decades of experience, Hanson recently applied for the fire chief position.
“I think it was always my goal. I think you have to set your goals lofty. It was an opportunity to do something that I love and that I have a passion for, so I took the opportunity and give it a shot,” Hanson said.
Now that Hanson has assumed his role as fire chief, he said he will remain focused on providing effective training for all 31 members of the Willmar Fire Department. He also aims to hire eight to 10 more firefighters.
Hanson plans to stay in his current position for the rest of his career, maintaining the fire department’s efficient operations.
“The firefighters make this department operate very well. They are a family. We are a family here. We trust each other. Ultimately we have a common goal of providing a service to the community,” Hanson said.

Willmar Fire Department Leadership

  • Fire Chief: Frank Hanson
  • Assistant Fire Chief: Jeff Gilbertson
  • Deputy Chief of Operations: Gawin Kooistra
  • Battalion Chiefs: Josh McGillvray and Jim Larson

Rick Johnson
Willmar Fire Chief Frank Hanson, left, discusses requirements for new breathing equipment Tuesday with staff member Rick Johnson at the Willmar Fire Station. (GARY MILLER | TRIBUNE)

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