One of Iowa’s longest-serving fire chiefs is hanging up his helmet. Council Bluffs Fire Chief Alan Byers will retire on Friday. He’s been a firefighter since 1977 and chief for nearly 20 years. Byers is 58-years-old and says it’s been an honor to serve the southwest Iowa community for so long.
“It’s leaving on a very positive note,” Chief Byers says. “Things are good and the city is doing wonderful. All of those things, it’s been fun to be a part of but it just came down to — it felt like it was time.”
Byers grew up in Clarinda and had a few friends who were volunteer firefighters there. As a young man, he was with those friends when fire struck Clarinda’s church/theater and he was quickly recruited for the hose line. He was hooked — and has been fighting fires ever since.
“So many memories of fires and the horrible situations but there’s so many positives that came with it and what we were doing to help someone,” Byers says. “And the flood situation, where the whole metro area came out to help and support all of us, and Project Alex with the smoke detector program, how many people have turned out.”
That project aimed to put a smoke detector in every house in Council Bluffs. It was named after Alex Buzzetta, a seven-year-old boy who was killed in a fire in 2010. Council Bluffs’ Mayor Tom Hanafan has been in office the whole time Byers has been fire chief. Byers says that makes him the envy of many of his fire-fighting colleagues in other communities nationwide.
“They’re very jealous of the fact that I’ve had one boss in my whole career as fire chief,” Byers says. “That stability has been important to me. Mayor Hanafan, a long time ago, said, ‘This is your department to manage, I’m here for you,’ but he didn’t micromanage. He supported the things we wanted to try and do to improve the department and to better protect the community.”
Byers plans a few vacations with his wife, he also wants to spend more time with his grandkids and adds, he has a long list of “honey-do” chores at home.