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Lifetime of overtime: Central Whidbey's most veteran firefighter retires after 30 years

Greenbank resident Allan Haven recently finished serving more than 30 years as a volunteer firefighter for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue.   - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Greenbank resident Allan Haven recently finished serving more than 30 years as a volunteer firefighter for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

The fact that the average volunteer firefighter serves between three and five years makes Allan Haven’s milestone particularly impressive.

Haven recently retired after volunteering for more than 30 years as a firefighter for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue.

He began serving as a firefighter after he accompanied his father-in-law on a call.

“He had a call one night and I tagged along and thought I could handle this,” Haven said in a recent interview.

Joe Biller, who was the longtime chief for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue before becoming training officer for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, complimented Haven on the number of years he served.

“That’s a real testament to a guy who wants to give back to the community,” Biller said. He added that Haven’s ability to organize logistics came in very handy over the years.

Prior to coming to Whidbey Island, the 67-year Greenbank resident was a chief warrant officer in the Coast Guard where he worked in supply and financial. He also spent 15 years repairing computers at Boeing.

Haven noted the changes that have taken place in firefighter operations over the years. He remembered an incident years ago when a neighbor in Greenbank had an electrical panel catch fire. When the call was announced, he happened to have a fire extinguisher in his truck so he simply drove to the house to douse the blaze. Another firefighter, who was an electrician, arrived in his work truck, climbed a pole and cut the power while Haven’s father-in-law went to the fire station. Response was often informal, but effective.

In the early years, a loud siren at the fire station would sound whenever firefighters were needed. Haven was also given a Plectron, which was a device about the size of a large phone that would broadcast emergency calls to volunteers. The Plectron eventually gave way to the pagers which firefighters started using in the ’80s, Haven said.

Now Haven said the procedure is more structured, with better trained firefighters having to respond to all calls from the fire station.

He said the training and education volunteers go through to serve their community has become more rigorous over the years.

“Basically a volunteer trains as if you’re a full-time firefighter,” Haven said.

It’s a considerable time commitment for folks wishing to volunteer as a firefighter. In addition to responding to calls that happen at all hours of the day, volunteers are required to participate in the weekly training sessions that, for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, take place Monday nights. Biller said that between the time required to volunteer and the amount of time people spend working, it’s difficult for folks to volunteer as a firefighter. That’s why volunteers average only three to five years.

Haven far surpassed the average, but now that he’s 67, he said it’s time to retire.

“I felt it was time to let some of these younger people get involved,” Haven said. “People need to be involved in the community.”

In terms of longevity, he was the longest-serving firefighter currently volunteering for Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue. Biller said that Haven was often available to respond to night calls when he was working. Since he retired from Boeing, he was also helpful responding to calls during the day.

Haven is going to miss the people he served and the camaraderie with fellow firefighters the most.

Even though he is finished with giving his time and energy to Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, he isn’t going to stop helping the community. He is looking for another opportunity to volunteer, which could be anything from a volunteer for the Island County Sheriff’s Office to the local library.

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