APPLEY VALLEY, Minn. - While other firefighters are beginning their shifts, at Fire Station Number 2, Joel Engel prepares for his last.
"It's kind of surreal,” he said.
Since 1977, the 58-year-old volunteer fire fighter has battled blazes and investigated them. And now he's turning the page on 40 years of service.
"He's been on as long as you've been alive, right?” Chief Nealon Thompson asked Engel’s young partner, Matt Karnic.
“Yeah,” he responded.
Thompson has been with the department 26 years and calls Engel the department’s historian.
"Joel has been the go-to-guy while he says he hasn't seen it all. He has seen a lot of stuff,” he said.
And won a lot of awards, including one for saving a man’s life a few years back.
"I saved a guy from sudden cardiac arrest. He's still alive today,” said Engel.
He even got to meet him and the man’s wife, along with their grandkids.
“And the grandkids even made me a picture. And I got that in frame too,” he recalled.
"He's not afraid to be first guy in the door,” added fellow fire fighter Bill Reilly. “You always feel like you're in good hands when he's around."
It was 1977 when at 18 years old, Joel and his twin brother Dan first volunteered. Dan retired five years ago. Dan's son, Joel's nephew is also a fire fighter. And Joel’s father also served as a volunteer fire fighter, and his mother helped out, as well.
"He's meant a lot to the department, his family has meant a lot to the community,” said Thompson.
So what will he miss? Turns out just what we'd expect.
"Helping my neighbor who can't help themselves. That will be the hardest thing,” said Engel.