David Swanson was a 15-year old kid, he said, “headed down the wrong road” in life when a friend invited him to a meeting of youth Fire Explorers.
As he watched the firefighters training and working around the station, he realized that he wanted to be one of those guys.
“From that day forward, I focused on becoming a firefighter,” Swanson said. “The fire department literally saved my life.”
On Feb. 14, Swanson retired from his 30-year career in the fire service.
Swanson began volunteering for Pierce County Fire District 7 (Spanaway) when he was 18. After that, he worked for the Puyallup, Caldwell (Idaho) and Bothell fire departments. The legacy Auburn Fire Department, now the Valley Regional Fire Authority, hired Swanson in 2001, and he went on to serve the residents of Auburn, Algona and Pacific for 20 years.
He successfully tested for and obtained a VRFA Technical Rescue Team position, participating in high-angle, confined space, and water rescues throughout his career. Swanson spent time at each of VRFA’s five stations, finding positive things wherever he went, but what he enjoyed most was his co-workers.
“It was great working with like-minded people, laughing and sharing both good and bad times with those that you trust,” said Swanson. “The experiences we shared, and what we learned about life on our 24-hour shifts together made me a better man, a better husband, and father.”
“Dave occupies a unique space not only in the VRFA, but in the heart of everyone who knows him,” said Fire Chief Brent Swearingen. “He is always trying to improve himself and those around him. Dave sets a high standard for himself and is never satisfied just because those around him may be. Dave brings a consummate entrepreneurial spirit to everything he does, so I know he will find plenty to keep him interested in retirement. We thank him for his service and wish him the best.”
Swanson plans to keep busy in retirement, volunteering for the Packwood Fire Department and White Pass Ski Patrol. He also expects to spend time enjoying his kids and working on projects.
He offers this advice for those just launching their fire service careers.
“It is a marathon, not a race, so be humble and don’t take yourself too seriously. Your career will go by fast,” Swanson said.