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Everson retires from NRFD after 30 years

Assistant Fire Chief Ed Everson, left, retired from New Richmond Fire and Rescue after 30 years with the department. Everson is pictured with Fire Chief Jim VanderWyst, who has also served on the department for 30 years.

Since joining New Richmond Fire and Rescue in 1982, Ed Everson has gone on 3,872 fire runs, attended 1,324 training sessions and put in a total of 8,301 hours with the department. Now, he's hanging up his gear.

Everson retired from the department on Sept. 4 after 30 years of service. He climbed the ranks and most recently served as assistant fire chief.

"Firefighting has changed a lot since I started," he said.

The amount of training required of firefighters has increased significantly.

"They have rescue training, training if you want to drive the truck, confined space training, training for officers... the list goes on and on," said Jim VanderWyst, fire chief.

Everson said that while he would rather have trained firefighters coming to his home to fight a fire, they don't get the hands-on experience that firefighters got 30 years ago.

"Thirty years ago we got a call, got in a red thing and put water on a red thing," he said. "Now they do all this training and do simulated fires, but until you get into a real fire, you don't know anything."

The job of firefighters has also changed. According to VanderWyst, fighting fires and tending to things that are actually burning is less than 20 percent of what firefighters do.

Instead, 40 percent of their time is spent responding to rescue calls - for both humans and animals.

"We've responded to three cats in trees," Everson said with a laugh. "The first one jumped as soon as the ladder went up."

One of the pioneers in New Richmond, Everson was the guy responsible for developing New Richmond's fire prevention program.

"It started as a two-hour program for kindergarten through third grade," he said.

Today, the fire prevention program takes the better part of a month, with firefighters visiting all of the schools and day cares - whether they're center-based or home-based.

"We even won an award for our fire prevention program," Everson said proudly.

Everson said he got involved with firefighting because of some friends. Ray Nutzmann, one of Everson's co-workers at Bosch, was assistant fire chief when Everson was recruited. Everson said one of his neighbors also served on the department.

Everson's family, which includes his wife, Marilyn, and two children, were very understanding throughout his fire career, he said.

"Yes, I've left my family at restaurants to go out to fires," he said. "They've had to find rides home before."

Everson said that while his family understands now, his wife still enjoys telling a particular story about their son. One night, when Everson had to leave his home in the middle of the night to fight a fire, his son was astonished that his father would leave his warm bed in the middle of the night. Later, it was explained to his son that, "If your house was on fire in the middle of the night, wouldn't you want firefighters to come put it out?"

"I have no regrets of putting 30 years of my life into this department," Everson said.

Everson said the clearest memory he has from his career was a barn fire in the early 1980s. Firefighters fought the blaze for 12 hours in subzero temperatures.

"It was a cold, miserable fire," he said.

Another fire, likely the most devastating of his career, was a trailer house fire where a child was killed.

"It's hard to watch people lose all their belongings or their family members and get displaced," he said.

Everson said he's found plenty to do to replace the time spent at the station.

"It really hasn't left a void yet," he said. "I've been working a lot of overtime and, now that it's fall, I've had a lot to do around the house."

Still, Everson has stopped by the fire hall at least once a week, said VanderWyst.

"I just can't get rid of him," he joked.

A party is being planned on Saturday, Oct. 27, to honor Everson. The party will take place at the American Legion Hall from noon until 3 p.m. The public is invited to attend.