After 27 years of service to the Merrill community, Battalion Chief Steve Hintze will retire from the department, according to a Merrill Fire Department news release.

Hintze, who will retire June 1, started his emergency services career with the Merrill Fire Department on February 8th, 1993, after being hired by then-Fire Chief Harvey Emmanuel.  His first assigned position was Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician – Intermediate (EMT-I).  Prior to employment with the fire department, Hintze worked as a security guard for Wausau Insurance Company, as a youth counselor at Lincoln Hills, and as a scraper operator for Merrill Gravel & Construction.

During his early years with the fire department, Hintze is credited with revamping the department’s fire prevention program. He converted the program from an all-school presentation to a detailed lesson plan for each grade from preschool through 4th grade.

This change significantly impacted the Merrill community by reducing the number of fires and thus saving lives, according to Merrill Fire Chief Josh Klug.

“It is hard to estimate exactly how many fires were never started because of his prevention efforts, but data collected over the decades shows a distinct reduction in fires and fatal fires,” Klug wrote, in his release.

This form of fire prevention wasn’t the only involvement Hintze had during his career. His efforts also included the smoke alarm installation program, Bigs with Badges mentorship, and most recently the Hydrant Heroes program.

Hintze, like all members of the Merrill Fire Department, was trained in all of the various emergency service functions provided to the community. In addition to his EMT and fire training, Hintze during his career completed training in arson investigations, confined space, incident command systems, hazardous materials, wildfires, driver/operator, juvenile firesetter, foam, high angle rescue, ice and swiftwater rescues, weapons of mass destruction, suicide prevention, underground tank inspections, and advanced vehicle extrication.

In addition to his career training Hintze also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His formal education and training along with his leadership skills made him the top candidate for promotion to Lieutenant in 2003, Klug said. He was then promoted to the rank of Captain in 2008.  During that same year, the fire department was restructured to accommodate the reduction to staffing, creating an Assistant Fire Chief position as well. Hintze was chosen for the position and served as the department’s second-in-command until 2012, when he went back on shift as a Battalion Chief due to the department’s restructuring. 

Since 2012, Hintze has lead his shift, C Crew, and handled additional assignments for the department like fire inspections, training, station maintenance, and public relations/education.

Hintze is also well-known for his volunteer work, serving as safety director of the Merrill Little League and as commissioner of Merrill’s park and recreation as well as a board member of the Silver M Club.

As a member of St. John Lutheran Church, he served in many roles like School Board member, youth board member, elder, and vice president of the congregation. Hintze has been a youth sports coach for decades, and he volunteered his time and talents to some of the department’s off-duty events and functions.

In his retirement letter, Hintze reflected on his career.

“After more than a twenty-five year career, one which allowed me to serve the citizens as a firefighter, EMT, rescuer, and role model – I have had the privileged opportunity on many occasions to experience the ‘high’ of doing something as important as saving a life to something as simple as putting a smile on a face, in these roles through the years,” Hintze wrote. “However, this position was not always the ‘high,’ but at times just the opposite, like when I carried out a young child of a house fire, knowing there was nothing humanly possible I could do to make this situation right or the several drownings I would have the unfortunately experience to deal with, all which will stay with me even through my retirement years.”

Klug said the community and department are fortunate that Hintze served his hometown for so many years.

“Even though we won’t have BC Hintze at the station responding on calls anymore, his legacy will be felt long after his retirement,” Klug said. “I would personally like to go on record thanking him for everything he did to help me in my fire service career.”

After Hintze’s retirement, Firefighter/Paramedic Jon Leiskau will take over as Battalion Chief.

The department will hold a retirement reception for HIntze from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 28. The public is invited.

All photos courtesy of the Merrill Fire Department