Helena fire chief Wood stepping down in September

Ken Wood
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 19:59:15-04

HELENA — Helena’s fire chief has announced he will be stepping down this fall.

Chief Ken Wood said Friday that he initially planned to serve several more years with the Helena Fire Department, but he’s retiring to spend more time with his family.

“I still love what I do,” he said. “It’s very hard, because I’m happy.”

Wood plans to start working with Brow Tine Property Services, his sons’ business.

“It’s an opportunity for me to go work with my family, and they need help now,” he said.

Wood has spent about 25 years in the fire service, including about 22 with HFD. He was named interim chief in March of 2019, then became permanent chief nine months later. He will step down at the end of September.

Wood’s announcement came the same week as the city announced its police chief, Steve Hagen, will retire in the fall. However, the two men say they reached their decisions for different reasons, and they only happened to coincide.

Hagen says he decided a long time ago that he would retire when he reached 30 years with the Helena Police Department. That milestone will come at the end of October. He also said his time as chief has been stressful, from dealing with turnover in city administration to the national debate over policing.

“Life is short, and you’re never promised tomorrow,” Hagen said. “I want to enjoy my tomorrows.”

Hagen says he won’t immediately take another job, and that he plans to spend time with his wife and enjoy fishing and hunting.

Wood and Hagen came into their positions at nearly the same time and in nearly the same way, becoming interim chiefs and then getting the permanent positions. Both men say they’re confident their departments are ready to keep serving the public the way they always have.

“The city’s in really good hands,” Wood said. “They won’t miss a beat.”

Both men say they’ve worked well with their fellow city directors, with City Manager Rachel Harlow-Schalk and with each other, and that there weren’t any issues there that led to their departure.

Harlow-Schalk praised Wood and Hagen for their service. She said she plans to work with them on determining the best way to move forward with their departments. For both HFD and HPD, she said she plans to name interim chiefs and then fill the permanent positions through open recruitment processes – though she hasn’t determined yet when those processes will open.