Chief Celebrates 50 Years 

Hayti Fire Department

In 1972, Glen Whitener was 24 years old when he first walked in the doors of the Hayti Fire Department. At that time, several of his friends were serving on the department and when Fire Chief Bob Bivens asked him if he would be interested in joining the department, he readily agreed. He signed up on a Thursday, and the very same night he was voted into the department.

Whitener says most of his training was done in house and with the University of Missouri who has a great department with specialized classes and training props so those training can get a true to life experience in the scenario they have created. Many of the classes are held locally, but there are also summer and winter fire schools where intensified training is held on the University of Missouri campus alongside professional instructors.

“The training has evolved to match the new construction of both homes and commercial buildings, as well as different vehicle designs and fuels being used in updated vehicles,” said Whitener. “For example, today new training programs and tools are being developed for the new electric vehicles and solar panels that are installed more and more.”

Throughout his 50 years in the department, he has seen good times and bad. The rewarding times are when they arrive on the scene and can quickly extinguish a blaze with little to no damage to the home or business. The bad times are when fatalities or serious injuries are involved in the situation.

“My first year as a fireman included seven fatalities, which is a lot,” said Whitener. “The included both fire and automobile accidents. We always hope we can go through a year without fatalities or serious incidents, but we try to be prepared for all types of emergencies.”

Through his 50 years serving as a firefighter on the Hayti Department, Whitener held many different officer positions. In 2013, he was appointed Fire Chief by the Mayor and City Council.

“It wasn’t a particular goal of mine, but I was humbled by the honor,” he said.

Looking forward to the next ten years he says his goal is simple, to prepare the members of the fire department for the next incident, whatever it may be, and to keep the department well equipped with the proper tools that might be needed.

“The Mayor and City Council have been very helpful in keeping us up to date with the things we need. Our department always has a fundraiser each year to help with equipment expenses, fire prevention and smoke alarms that we hand out to those in need at no cost,” he said. “We believe strongly in smoke alarms and want everyone to have adequate protection even if they are financially unable to purchase them. We appreciate our generous community who have supported our Fire Department for 42 years. Our 43rd fundraiser is starting now and will finalize on December 3, 2022 and we are already looking forward to another successful year.”

While the support of the City leaders has been outstanding, he says the most important people in his career have been his family at home.

“Special emphasis on ‘Mrs. America’, or Connie, my wife of 51 years. She has not complained (much) about the extremely dirty clothes that she has washed so many times, and neither has she complained about the 2 a.m. alarms or fire calls during Thanksgiving Dinner or other family events that have caused delays. Or kept us while trying to attend another meeting or event, that sometimes I wouldn’t make. My children, Allison, Robert and Halley have suffered some of the same things as Connie. And of course, my fellow firemen and fire chiefs have been instrumental in forwarding my advancement and interest in the fire service, as well as my good friend Fire Chief Charlie Jones of the Caruthersville Fire Department,” said Whitener in thanks.

Finally he shares, “I would advise anyone who is trying to ‘find their fire’, to consider volunteering to one of the local fire departments in the county. You never know when you might turn around and 50 years has flown by, and you have a long rewarding career serving your community.”