by Dennis Dalman
After 32 years as a Rice firefighter, assistant fire chief Steve Janski can go fishing again, maybe.
“Yes, I’d like to go fishing at least once,” he said, chuckling. “Before I die.”
Janski, 62, is no longer with the fire department, but he is by no means retired, with endless time on his hands. He is the long-time owner-operator of Janski Grocery in downtown Rice.
Janski joined the Rice Fire Department in 1982, when Kevin Martin, who is still on the force, was fire chief.
“It all went by so quick,” Janski said of his 32 years of service to the city. “The first 20 years were a bit slow, but the last 10 years were such quick ones.”
What he liked best about his many years of firefighting was the camaraderie with his colleagues.
“There were many difficult times, and that leads to camaraderie,” he said. One of the saddest, most difficult times was a fire one day in the mid-1980s at Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park just south of Rice. A little boy had been playing with a cigarette lighter, which started a fire. The boy then hid in fear in a closet and died. It was, Janski said, a very heartbreaking fire call with such a sad outcome.
But there were happy times, too. What made his dedication to his job possible was his supportive family – wife DJ, son Scott, daughter Sarah.
When he first joined the department, it was a bit frustrating for his family. So many times a sudden fire call would put the kibosh on other plans, such events as family reunions, weddings, visits to a lake, special dinners, holiday times with family, even taking his wife shopping.
Daughter Sarah is a nurse at the St. Cloud Hospital. Son Scott has been Rice Fire Department chief for about 15 years. He joined the force two decades ago.
Does he give his son any advice?
“No,” he quickly answered. “I don’t have to. He’s been there long enough so he knows what he’s doing.”
At the Aug. 3 Rice City Council meeting, members praised and thanked Janski for his 32 years of service. He was presented a framed firefighter’s shirt by son Scott and assistant fire chief Bradley Villaincourt.
With no more fire calls, will he now have time to take his wife shopping?
“No,” he said, laughing. “By this time, she’s learned to do that all by herself.”