Kanger: 'I love fire service,' but retiring for family

Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger said he achieved his goals of improving public perception and gaining recognition for the Fire Department.

Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger decided to retire later this year because of the toll that the job was taking on his family.

But the decision wasn't easy. "I love this organization," he said. "I love the fire service."

Kanger spoke about his decision Wednesday morning after the Tuesday evening announcement from the Mayor's Office that he intends to retire May 6.

Mayor Jean Stothert, in announcing Kanger's departure, praised the chief and said she's sorry to see him go.

Kanger said he hasn't applied for any other fire chief jobs or made a decision about what he'll do next. Kanger said that decision "will be made in the privacy of my own home."

Kanger said he accomplished for himself the mayor's goal, which was to get the budget under control. He said some of the credit for that belongs to the fire union, which made concessions during labor negotiations that helped the department achieve its budget targets.

He said he also accomplished the goals he set for himself, which were to improve public perception of the Fire Department and to gain recognition for the department.

He said the latter happened after the International Nutrition collapse and when Ebola patients were brought to Omaha.

Kanger said the next chief should be fair and put the department ahead of him or herself. He said the biggest challenge ahead is to maintain the budget.

Being fire chief is "a remarkable experience, one that I'm grateful for," Kanger said.

He said Omahans should be proud of their Fire Department and its professionalism.

"The most rewarding thing for me is to see how this group pulls together during adverse, difficult times," he said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1084, roseann.moring@owh.com

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