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Posted: 01/08/14

Retiring Washington Township Fire Chief Dan Last receives a congratulatory plaque from EMT/Firefighter and Michigan Association of Fire Fighters President Leejay Kueppers.

(Observer photo by Stacy Sobotka)

WT Fire Chief Dan Last retires, calls department a 'diamond in the rough'

Observer Special Writer
      Firefighters and residents of Washington Township celebrated the career of outgoing Fire Chief Dan Last at a retirement party and muster Dec. 27.
       Assistant Fire Chief Brian Tyrell said he was sorry to see Last go but knew the fire department would be fine.
       "It's never easy to say good-bye, but at the same time I think we all know that Dan leaves us in good shape," he said.
       Last has called Washington Township home since 1977 and joined the Washington Township Fire Department in 1981 as a paid on-call firefighter/EMT. He was promoted to sergeant in 1984 and captain in 1989.
       Since 1989 he has been a member of the National Disaster Medical System and has offered assistance to major disasters, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake.
       At the time he became a firefighter, Last worked full-time at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren. He retired from GM in 2002 after nearly 30 years of service. Last worked for another five years as an engineering consultant before he took over the fire department in March 2011.
       "In my opinion, you chose to do so at the most difficult economic time that the modern fire service has ever seen," Tyrell told Last and the audience.
       During that time, Last managed budget concerns, assisted the township with contract renewals, established part-time staffing models, and secured grant funds for new self-contained breathing apparatus.
       Tyrell also praised Last for his advocacy of training.
       "I know that he recognized the importance of building future leaders in this department," he said.
       Last will continue to work for the department as a liaison.
       Tyrell was slated to take over the chief's position on Jan. 1.
       "It's going to be an honor to take up the reins as his successor, and I promise to try and live up to your standards, and we, this fire department, will continue to build on a solid foundation built by Chief (Gerald) Alward, Chief (Dave) Poterek, and now Chief Last as we fast-track to becoming the leading department in Macomb County," he said.
       Tyrell then presented Last with a helmet signed by all of the firefighters.
       Township Supervisor Dan O'Leary then spoke of the qualities Last brought to the department.
       "The thing that Dan brings to the table might be the incredible amount of sense of community service, respect, dedication to the job, and when you think about it, over these last two years, unity," he said.
       Last thanked everybody for coming and spoke of how proud he was of the department.
       "Quite frankly, this department is a diamond in the rough," he said. "There are many other departments in the county that are trying to mimic our department. And it's not because of me. It's because of the service we provide and because of the firefighters that provide that service."
       Last also gave a reason for retiring.
       "I wanted to step down when I knew I could still do the job and I could be proud of the job that I've done," he said. "I wanted to step down while I still have enough energy to pursue some other interests. It's not a sad time; it's just the right time. One of the main reasons that it is the right time is that I am confident that the right time is in place to move this department forward."
       Last also had a parting gift for all the firefighters<a challenge coin. The coin was originally carried by soldiers as a form of identification and as a morale booster. Last explained where the challenge part came from.
       "If in a bar, one of the soldiers pulled out his challenge coin and put it on the bar, and the soldier next to him didn't have one from his unit to sit on the bar next to his, that other soldier had to buy him a drink," he said.
       The firefighters then performed a final salute to Last as he and his wife, Sue, walked out of Fire Station No. 1.
       Sue Last said that she and her husband already have plans to celebrate.
       "We have a trip planned to Little Cayman. It's our retirement gift to us," she said.

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Retrieved 7/29/2015 at 1:52:17 PM.
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