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Local firefighter honors trade's history

BY JULIA JESSEN | NOVEMBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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The pictures on the walls of Roger Jensen's office offer glimpses into firefighting history. There are the two majestic white horses from the days when fire departments used horse teams instead of trucks, the first motorized fire vehicle in Iowa City, and the first motorized fire vehicle in his hometown of Minden, Iowa.

Jensen, the deputy fire chief of the Iowa City Fire Department, tells the stories of the photos that mean so much to him as he leans back in his chair and puts his hands behind his head, the light bouncing off the shiny gold fireman's badge on the chest of his crisp, white shirt.

He loves his profession, and his accomplishments show his dedication to the field. Jensen recently received the Hawkeye State Fire Safety Association's "Lifetime Achievement Award." But he remains humble.

"I feel like I've had my share of opportunities to excel, and I've just tried to take advantage of those and do good things," he said.

The University of Iowa graduate in English and broadcasting and film started his fire-service career as a volunteer firefighter in his small hometown after he returned to help his brother when his father fell ill.

He liked the job and furthered his interest by going to paramedic school in Omaha and joining the Iowa City Fire Department in 1987. Jensen's career totals 37 years.

In his career, Jensen was part of many initiatives working to increase fire safety and public awareness of fire safety. He said that's one part of the job that he's really enjoyed.

"That's very satisfying to know that efforts I was involved in would and have had an impact on the safety of people in Iowa City," Jensen said.

Jensen is also the accreditation manager for the department, another area that he is proud to work in. The Iowa City Fire Department is one of 142 fire agencies worldwide that carry the accreditation, one of the three in Iowa. It provides a template for best practices in the station and a model for continuous improvement.

"It's not the easiest thing to do," Jensen said. "There's a good amount of rigor incorporated with it, but I guess if it was easy, everyone would do it."

The firefighters who know Jensen say he possesses many qualities that make him a good firefighter and a good leader.

When Rick Moody was the fire marshal of the Des Moines department, he met Jensen, the Iowa City fire marshal. Moody said Jensen possessed an open mind for others' ideas.

"He's just an all around great guy who takes everybody else's concerns in front of his and makes everyone around him feel comfortable," Moody said.

Retired firefighter Jim Humston met Jensen when he started on the Iowa City Fire Department. He said Jensen had great dedication and professionalism.

"He was a good coworker," Humston said. "Someone I could come to, and we could talk about anything on the department, always supportive and a good role model, for me and others, in his dedication."

Jensen worked every rank from entry-level firefighter to his current job of deputy fire chief, his passion for the profession growing with every new opportunity.

"Every step along the way has been different, unique, challenging, never boring," he said. "Every day has just a little twist, enough to challenge and cause me to still love getting up and going to work every day."


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