Lt. Bob Hansbro sitting on front bumper of Engine 9After more than forty two years of service to the City of Madison, Bob Hansbro ("Lt. Bro") retired from the Madison Fire Department as the longest serving lieutenant in department history. He retired on September 26, 2022, the same week as his recruit academy classmate Lieutenant Larry Grab.
Hansbro came to the Madison Fire Department after serving as a job counselor with a degree in economics and industrial relations. He was hired to the department on February 4, 1980, at a time when the department's demographical makeup was under the microscope. Then-Fire Chief Ed Durkin vowed to hire a recruit academy that would more accurately reflect the diversity of the community. Still, the hiring of seven African-American men, ten women, and one Hispanic man was scrutinized, both publicly and behind the scenes.
"They 'lowered the standards' to let us on," Hansbro said, parroting an accusation that was lobbed by critics at that time. But Hansbro was always quick with a retort. "The classes that I know the most about—which was ours and the class right after us, in 1982— the majority of the people in those classes played Division 1 sports, had professional athletic tryouts, and stuff like that. More than half of them went to college. So where do you think they lowered the standards? [The critics] could never answer that question."
Following graduation from the recruit academy, Hansbro was assigned to Fire Station 9. He then spent a short while in the Fire Prevention Division and eventually moved to old Fire Station 4 at the corner of Dayton Street and Randall Avenue. Once acquiring his paramedic license, he moved on to Fire Station 6, which proved to be one of his favorite territories. Hansbro was eventually promoted to Lieutenant in 1993, cementing his place in history, so far, as the longest-service lieutenant at the MFD. He spent several years at Station 4, which he enjoyed because of the variety the territory brings.
"You've got to know all the buildings and the campus, and the calls varies. You're on the edge of the west side, so you get stuff that way, but you're also downtown," Hansbro explained.
Lt. Robert HansbroFor Hansbro, it wasn't just responding to the wide array of calls that kept him hooked to the job— it was also the chance to help others. He notes that helping others is what the fire department is designed to do, and he cautions the community not to take that for granted.
"Who shows up at your door no matter what, whether it's a hangnail or heart attack? Whatever it is, who else can you call and know you're going to have a result within five or ten minutes?"
Living in Madison while also serving in Madison meant he knew some of the people he was called to help. He delighted in being able to make someone's bad day a little bit brighter by connecting over mutual acquaintances or inside jokes.
Behind the scenes, he was passionate about improving conditions around the firehouse and finding sustainable ways to maintain equipment. For example, he lobbied for the acquisition of Plymovents, a system that contains and removes exhaust from the fire trucks. Attaching Plymovents to the rigs put a stop to the open release of toxic fumes into the apparatus bay and firehouse.

He was also passionate about making sure people were treated with respect, and that their unique talents were recognized and appreciated.

"We have to remember what it is we promised to do when we got this job," he said. "Take care of people, respect people, respect their differences, work as a team, build people up instead of tearing them down."
Looking toward retirement, Hansbro has plans to spend time with family and take time to travel to see his children who don't live in town. He leaves the Madison Fire Department proud to say that he and his crew returned home safely after every shift.
"I can honestly say I can leave here without anybody getting hurt. I love that."
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