Written by Devon Boen
Anyone who knows Bob Hanson knows not to call him by his given name. He goes by “Sparky,” a nickname he earned years ago after he dressed up in a “Sparky the Fire Safety Dog” costume.
Hanson found the nickname fitting and adopted it as a part of his identity. Fortunately, it isn’t much of a stretch since he is a longtime firefighter, fire chief, and newly elected president of the Montana State Volunteer Firefighters Association — an organization that represents 10,000 firefighters across the state.
Hanson grew up in Wolf Point, graduated from Wolf Point High School and from Dickinson State University in North Dakota. He currently works as a registered nurse at Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital in Glasgow.
Hanson said he became interested in firefighting at a young age because his family was heavily involved. His father, Bob Hanson, was the Wolf Point fire chief for 17 years. Hanson followed in his father’s footsteps and began working as a Wolf Point volunteer firefighter at 19 years old. He went on to work at the Long Run Valley Fire Department, of which he is now the fire chief and oversees seven fire departments and 97 firefighters.
Now, Hanson has taken on his biggest responsibility yet as the president of the MSVFA. He previously served as the vice president for the organization’s district 7, which covers Valley, Garfield, McCone, Daniels, Sheridan, Roosevelt and part of Prairie counties.
In June, he was elected to take over as the president of the entire organization in place of Kraig Hansen, who encouraged him to run.
Hanson explained the organization represented 420 fire departments and 10,000 firefighters on a broad range of issues. He said he’d be the voice of the departments during Mon
tana Legislative sessions and would fight for volunteer firefighters’ rights like workmen’s compensation, which they currently do not receive in Montana.
He said there is also a bill proposed that would reduce speed limits by accident scenes that he and the association would like passed. Hanson said a firefighter died on the scene of a car accident after being run over by another motorist passing the area.
Looking at Hanson’s long list of credentials might give the impression nothing would faze him, but he said he’s faced tragedy and challenges on the job just like anyone else. Hanson said he was particularly devastated by the 2009 shooting outside the Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital in Glasgow. Hanson had only been fire chief for 15 days and it was his responsibility to limit the chaos and ensure people’s safety. Hanson said the entire town was shut down and the worst part was not knowing who was okay and who wasn’t.
Hanson has proven he is equal parts brave and compassionate, making him the perfect candidate to represent Montana’s firefighters. He said, out of all the opportunities the position would offer him, he most looked forward to meeting firefighters from across Montana.