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The North Bend Eagle


NBC seniors learn the ropes, hoses of fire fighting

by Nathan Arneal
Published 4/20/11

The heat was the first thing he noticed.

Neil Hansen had been around firefighters all his life. His dad, Bob, and uncles Nick and Jeff were firefighters, as is his older sister Ariell.

After tagging along with his dad on numerous calls, Neil made his first venture into a burning building around the age of 14.

“I went in there and it was just insane,” he said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Your adrenaline is just pumping.”

He had seen fire from a distance, but up close, the heat is nearly overwhelming. Still, he wanted to feel more of the heat.

Now, at the age of 17, Hansen is about to complete the Cedar Bluffs Fire Department’s cadet program and become a full-fledged firefighter.

The cadet program is for kids between the ages of 16 and 18. They meet monthly and learn the fundamentals of everything it takes to be a firefighter, from handling hoses and pumps to responding to accident victims. Graduates of the program get to skip the sixth-month probationary period that adults have to go through when they join the department.

Hansen was the first person to join the cadet program in Cedar Bluffs, but he isn’t the first to graduate for it. That honor belongs to fellow North Bend Central senior Jesse Lacey.

Unlike Hansen, Lacey did not grow up in a firefighting family, but once he started hanging out with Hansen, it didn’t take long to introduce him to the craft.

“We’ve been best friends since seventh or eighth grade,” Hansen said. “He used to come over and stay the night. We’d get a call in the middle of the night and he’d go with us and sit in the truck.”

After a while, the boys wanted to do more than just sit in the truck.

“I think I’d been on five or six calls where I really couldn’t do anything,” Lacey said. “Then Bob said, ‘You know it would be really cool if we could actually train you guys.’”

One thing led to another, and soon the Cedar Bluffs cadet program was born, with Neil Hansen and Lacey as its first two members. The program grew to six people before Lacey graduated by virtue of turning 18 in February and being voted onto the CBVFD. Hansen, who won’t turn 18 until June, has to wait a while yet, something his older but less experienced friend has teased him about.

“He’s not to happy about it,” Lacey said. “I can pull rank on him, but he gets really mad.”

Hansen didn’t disagree.

“I’d do something for him if it was something he actually needed for the job,” he said, “but if he told me to go get a bottle of water for him, I tell him to go get it for himself.”

Since Lacey lives in North Bend, it took some discussion before he was allowed to join the program. Now, as an active firefighter, he must make the 13-plus mile commute when he receives a call. This means he often has to wait around the station before catching a later truck to the scene.

Lacey said the trip over, which he is required to make while observing the speed limit, can really do a number on the nerves, a feeling the state-meet-qualifying distance runner is familiar with.

“It feels like all day,” he said. “You’re thinking ‘Come on, I need to get to this fire.’ You build up anticipation like before a race. It’s not cool.”

Most of the calls Lacey has responded to have come while he was visiting the Hansens, who live just five miles west of Cedar Bluffs.

Both NBC seniors have seen enough to want to continue firefighting for the long haul.

Following high school graduation next month, Hansen plans to study fire protection technology at Southest Communtiy College in Lincoln. He then wants to be a professional firefighter in Omaha or Lincoln.

“I thought about going to Chicago or somewhere like that to be on a fire department,” Hansen said, “but I can’t leave my family.”

Lacey plans to continue his firefighting career the same way he started it, as a volunteer. After college, he wants to be a policeman and live close enough to Cedar Bluffs to continue serving its fire department.

“I’ve grown to really like Cedar Bluffs,” Lacey said. “I know everybody, they know me. We’re all friends.”

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