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Behind the Heroic Helmets: Deputy Chief Mike Whitsell and the Heart of West Des Moines Fire Department

Whitsell 2020 (1)

By Everett Mullican, Marketing & Communications Coordinator | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

When you think about the heroes who serve our communities, those brave individuals who rush toward the face of danger while we seek safety, names like Deputy Fire Chief Mike Whitsell shine brightly. In his role as Deputy Chief of Fire Prevention/Fire Marshal for the City of West Des Moines Fire Department, Mike Whitsell is not just a firefighter; he is a dedicated first responder who has spent his life protecting the city he grew up in and loves dearly.

A Childhood Dream Turned Reality
Deputy Fire Chief Whitsell’s journey into the world of firefighting was nothing short of destiny. Growing up in West Des Moines, he was captivated by the sight of fire trucks rolling by. His fascination began when he visited a fire station with his grandfather in Fort Worth, Texas, as a young child. That moment ignited a lifelong passion for firefighting.

Upon turning 18, he signed up to be a volunteer firefighter, taking the first step toward realizing his dream. In June 1990, his dream came true when he officially became a volunteer firefighter. However, his goal was always to become a full-time firefighter for the City of West Des Moines, and that dream was fulfilled in 1998.

Embracing Every Challenge
For Deputy Fire Chief Whitsell, what sets the world of firefighting apart is the constant unpredictability. “No two days are the same here, and that’s what I love about it,” he says. His responsibilities extend beyond fighting fires; they include overseeing investigations to ensure that tragic incidents don’t recur, making the community safer for everyone.

Reflecting on the city’s growth and expansion, Deputy Fire Chief Whitsell highlights the role of visionary leaders who laid the foundation for West Des Moines’ development. He recognizes the importance of his role in maintaining the safety and security of the community, following in the footsteps of those who came before him.

A Shared Mission and Camaraderie
In the world of first responders, the camaraderie is unwavering. Deputy Fire Chief Whitsell emphasizes that everyone in the field shares a common mission: “We’re all part of that mission to keep people safe.” This includes firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and EMS personnel. Their dedication is fueled by a deep sense of responsibility to the citizens, business owners, and visitors who rely on their expertise.

He also highlights the emotional toll of the job. “Responders are not invincible; they are human, and they experience the highs and lows that come with the profession.” He acknowledges that there are moments when they return to the station, overwhelmed with emotion. They support each other, celebrating victories and comforting one another in times of difficulty.

A Passion for Service
As he reflects on his career, Mike Whitsell exudes a profound passion for his work and his community. “This is, I feel, the greatest job in the world,” he declares. His love for his fellow firefighters, the police department, dispatchers, paramedics, EMS personnel, and the City of West Des Moines shines through. He acknowledges the visionary individuals who lead the city forward and is humbled to be a part of the team that shapes its future.

Deputy Chief Mike Whitsell’s story is a testament to the unwavering commitment and sacrifice of our first responders. Their dedication, even in the face of danger and adversity, ensures our safety and the prosperity of our communities. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their service, and we’re fortunate to have individuals like Mike Whitsell safeguarding our city, living their dreams, and keeping us safe every day.


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