Aptos-La Selva’s Leader Served the Community for Four Decades
By Ryan Peters, Aptos-La Selva Fire Protection District
Fire Captain Greg Hansen, who is retiring in July after four decades of service, has made his indelible mark in defining what it means to be a member of the Aptos-La Selva Fire District. His rules for each day have been simple: Provide the best possible service to anyone and everyone — without exception — and have fun doing it.
His love of the job has been infectious and, even after 43 years in public safety; he races his crew to the fire engine when a 911 call comes in. Many long time Aptos residents have probably met or seen Captain Hansen over the years. Whether it be through his teaching CPR at Aptos Junior High School, his early days educating the public about fire safety as Captain H2O, or as a uniformed fixture standing watch on an emergency scene, he has made a massive impact for good in Aptos.
I sat down with Captain Hansen and asked him to reflect on his career and what it means to retire after such a long and successful career.
Captain Hansen: I began my career in May of 1977 as a Firefighter with the US Forest Service in the Shasta Trinity National Forest in Northern California.
Q: It’s always interesting to find out how and when members of the Fire District first decided to commit to a life of service. What ultimately brought you to the Fire Service?
CH: My Father unfortunately died when I was just five years old. Our next-door neighbor, Chuck Gamble, who was a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, slowly became my idol and Father figure. By the time I was twelve, because of him, I knew I wanted to work in the Fire Service. I figured if I could be half the man he was, I would be a good person.
Q: As it was known years ago, what brought you to the Aptos Fire Department?
CH: In 1980, I had left the Forest Service and was beginning work with the City of Marina Department of Public Safety, which deployed both Firefighters and Police Officers. I was scheduled to attend the Police Academy later that year. At that time I was residing in Aptos and really wanted to work in Santa Cruz County. Aptos Fire Department announced an opening for a Firefighter position and I applied for it. I officially began work with Aptos on October 15th, 1980.
Q: The Fire Service can be a dangerous profession. What is one of your more memorable experiences or calls?
CH: I’d have to say one of the incidents that really affected me was the Kirkendall rescue. We responded to a young man who had been electrocuted by downed live power lines and was injured. He was unable to get away from the lines due to his injuries and was in danger of being electrocuted an additional time. I just made the decision to grab him and pull him to a safer location. It wasn’t necessarily the safest thing to do, but it was definitely the right thing to do.
Q: You’ve served for over 4 decades, what will you miss the most?
CH: I’ll miss the guys the most. This is a fun job and it’s a privilege to get to work with such amazing people. Getting to ride around in the fire engine is just plain fun. And, when I’m working in my garage on my off days, I still find I have to take a peek when another crew drives by in the engine with the red lights and siren going.
Q: Once you settle into retirement, would you like to remain involved with the Fire Service as an instructor or advisor?
CH: I’ll probably take some time for myself to transition away from the job, but I’d be interested to help the Fire Service improve in any way I can. Whether there’s an opportunity to provide instruction to new recruits, or serve as a member of a directing board, I feel there’s still plenty I can offer even as a retired Fire Captain.
Q: Well, you’ve definitely earned the right to go and enjoy yourself. What do you plan on doing with all your free time once you hang up your helmet and gear?
CH: (Laughs) I’ll be working on little motorcycles and fixing things for people. Aside from that and more golf, I’ve begun building a new home in Scottsdale Arizona. I’ll always maintain a close bond with this community, even if I end up living in Arizona on a permanent basis. I’m thinking of taking some long road trips, maybe do some camping, follow the nice weather around.
Q: Any parting words come to mind as you prepare for retirement on July 13th?
CH: I’d say to my co-workers who’ll remain after I’m gone to just keep things fun, train and work hard, and to not take things too seriously. Remember to savor each shift and each year because this career goes by quickly. To the citizens: It’s been an honor to serve you. I soared under a lucky star so many years ago to have the privilege of working and living here. I’m so fortunate to have had this long career in the Fire Service and to be retiring healthy.
Q: So, someone told me I’m talking to the Grand Marshall of the 2019 Aptos 4th of July Parade. We’re looking forward to seeing you lead out the Parade one last time. Any thoughts on being this year’s Grand Marshal? And, can we expect to see any gymnastics or backflips this year?
CH: Well, I’m definitely honored. It’s always great to see the entire community come out and enjoy the holiday together. I just appreciate the opportunity to be involved and I’m flattered the Chamber of Commerce would want to recognize me. Once again, the 4th of July Parade is one of those small town events, which makes Aptos a special place.
Greg Hansen retires on July 13th, 2019 after 39 years of service with the Aptos-La Selva Fire Protection District. Please help us celebrate his career by joining us at the Aptos 4th of July Parade as he leads the event as Grand Marshall. Please feel free to contact the Aptos-La Selva Fire District by visiting us at www.Aptosfire.com or call (831) 685-6690.