Focus on Alumni: Keith Kiesow
Q&A with Chief Keith Kiesow
A graduate of Fox Valley Technical College’s Fire Protection Technician
program, Keith Kiesow is chief of the Town of Menasha Fire Department, an adjunct instructor at FVTC, and a member of the Fire Protection Technician program’s advisory committee.
Chief Kiesow was also named recipient of FVTC’s 2012 Alumni of the Year award.
How did your career get started?
I began as a volunteer on-call firefighter in 1980. Once I started taking the required classes at FVTC, I realized that this was something I enjoyed doing. As I progressed, I attended the National Fire Academy and then decided to earn my associate degree at Fox Valley Tech.
At that time, I was also working at Wisconsin Tissue Mill as a certified Journeyman electrical instrument technician. I came to FVTC for that part of my career as well.
Why did you decide to change careers and become a firefighter?
I was a captain and a training officer at the fire department when I received an offer for the chief’s position. Changing careers seemed like a natural next step in my life. I’ve always liked helping people. As firefighters, we help people on possibly the worst days of their lives.
How has this industry changed?
I have been fighting fires for 32 years and have seen tremendous changes in technology. There is more electronic-related equipment now so you need extra training. When I started, the basic class requirement to become a firefighter was 30 hours. Today it is 120 hours, along with written exams and practical hands-on tests. The adjunct teaching I do is in the apparatus area, helping students learn how to best drive and operate fire engines and ladder trucks.
Today, firefighters simply need more education to do their job effectively. Public expectations have changed. If there is a problem and it’s not a police matter, the fire department is called. We assume a lot of different roles in this career.
How did FVTC help prepare you?
Fox Valley Technical College continues to have one of the best fire protection programs in the state. The college gave me the education to succeed as a firefighter, as a captain, as a training officer, and now as a fire chief.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a fire chief?
We’re a small department, so I’m on call 24 hours a day. However, the positive side of that is I get to be directly involved and do things that I enjoy, like driving a fire truck and working with people. Basically, I like working with people and helping others whether it’s teaching fire department personnel or keeping citizens in our community safe. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re making a difference in someone’s life.