District dad balances fatherhood and fire fighting


City of Allen Fire Department

Father to two, district dad takes on the challenge of fighting fires and being a family man.

Mary Catherine Wells, Staff Reporter

As students grow up and move through high school, they eventually have to make the crucial decision of what they want to do with their life. Some choose to be a lawyer, others might go on to be a CEO, but some will make the decision to go the route that might risk their own life to save others. Bill Hawley, the dad of junior Drew and senior Kate Hawley, is the Fire Chief of the Allen Fire Department.

“[When you are Chief you] deal with many different things on a given day,” Hawley said. “You talk with elected officials, like right now we are working with Ebola and making sure people are safe, and we have to respond to somebody who is sick or might be sick. I’m also working with architects designing a new fire station. I deal a lot with our budget, which gets kind of complicated with buying fire trucks and hiring people. Every hour it’s a whole different thought process and a different area that I’m working on.”

When going on calls, firefighters have to deal with many different experiences.

“Over the years I have seen a lot of terrible situations, like a tragic car wreck or a devastating fire, and they certainly impact you and make you think about your own life, how fragile life is and how quickly everything can change,” Hawley said. “There are a few [incidents] that involved children that died that I will always remember and then there are other weird ones that the family brought their kids to the fire station and for years sent me Christmas cards.”

With every call representing a potentially dangerous situation, it can be stressful situation for Hawley’s family.

“It can be nerve wracking at times,” wife Joanne Hawley said. “You not just worry about fires, which can be dangerous for obvious reasons, but also chemical spills and illnesses like this Ebola. Fire fighters are the first responders and don’t always know the whole story when quickly responding to a situation. I am very proud of the hard work done by firefighters.”

The kids have a different view on worrying about their father.

“I [don’t usually worry about my dad],” senior Kate Hawley said. “He doesn’t go on calls anymore so he doesn’t have to go into fires. If he did though I would worry. The only time I worry is when there is a large storm, because he goes and drives around town and helps decide whether or not the tornado siren should go off.”

Although Hawley is proud to be Chief, it does come at a cost to his family.

“Last night I was here until 10:30 p.m. and I ran home for dinner, they had already eaten and were doing their homework and I passed through, changed clothes, and got some more emails for things that needed to happen and then I was off again,” Hawley said. “There are nights like that where you miss out on their practice or their game or whatever is going on and its just part of the job. But there are other times where it is flexible and I get to sneak out and go to my kids track meet or go to different things so it can be demanding. It’s nothing incredibly difficult but there are times where you miss out on things.”