by Jim Boyle
For the past 64 years, there has been a member of the Russ and Anna Mae Anderson family serving on the Elk River Fire Department.
The Elk River City Council and the current ERFD brethren and extended family packed the council’s chambers on April 5 to recognize Assistant Chief Cliff Anderson for his 37 years of service, the last in a line of Andersons who have combined for more than 126 years of fire service.
Assistant Chief Anderson started his fire service career in 1983, when he was hired on as a paid on-call firefighter.
“But you could say he started (his fire career) much earlier than that,” Elk River Fire Chief Mark Dickinson told the council. “He grew up in the fire department family.”
When he officially joined the department, he served alongside his father, Russ Anderson, who was then the fire chief.
Cliff’s two brothers, George and Denny, also followed in their dad’s footsteps and joined the local fire service in the 1980s as well.
Russ served from 1957-1994. Denny Anderson served from 1985-2006. George Anderson served from 1988-2018. Cliff, who started at the department on Aug. 1, 1983 is calling it a career in 2021.
“He has had an impressive career with the Elk River Fire Department,,” Dickinson said. “He has served in every position, including that as acting fire chief for a year.”
Cliff Anderson’s last official day was March 1. When he joined the rank and file he had no way of knowing he would turn his calling to the fire service into his life’s career.
But when Bruce West took over as the chief in 1994, new levels of opportunity arose as the department grew.
“(Bruce) embraced me and put me under his wing,” Anderson recalled.
Positions of fire marshal and fire inspector were not the most glamorous, Anderson said, but they were focused on helping prevent fires, protecting people, properties and firefighters.
Anderson and the department’s fire prevention efforts have extended to the littlest of Elk River residents when Anderson and others on the department brought their rigs and knowledge to the elementary schools in town during fire prevention weeks and put on their annual open houses.
And, of course, fighting fires and being part of a big close-knit group of fellow firefighters went hand in hand with all of Anderson’s work.
“Being part of that has been a privilege and a thrill,” Anderson said. “Even on fire calls, ... it was a good feeling to be able to help. At end of the day, it was a rewarding job.”
The Elk River chief noted Anderson did far more than protecting the community as a firefighter, emergency medical technician, fire marshal and fire educator. He has also volunteered countless hours over the years. Some examples include event planning, fundraising for the Salvation Army, and serving food at the local senior living facility to name a few, Dickinson told the council.
Dickinson lamented he had only two years to be able to get to know Cliff Anderson once he arrived at the department.
“I am extremely grateful for his leadership and the impact that he has made to the city and the fire department,” Dickinson said before offering his personal thanks for all he did to help him in his first two years as the new fire chief. “Thank you and congratulations on your retirement.”
Elk River Mayor John Dietz, who grew up in Elk River, highlighted the fact that the Elk River Fire Department has a long, rich history, noting three families have dominated the department’s fire service roster.
“They are the Collins family, the Kreuser family and the Anderson family,” Dietz said. “It would be hard to top what the Anderson family has done for our fire department. Between Russ, Denny, Cliff and George, they have a combined 126 years of service. That is an incredible number and shows the commitment the Andersons have made to the Elk River community.”
Dietz said the council and the entire community are very grateful to this family’s dedication.
The Elk River City Council proclaimed Aug. 1, 2021, as Cliff Anderson Day in the city of Elk River.
Cliff Anderson said he plans to work on projects and travel with his wife, Jule, especially after she retires from teaching first grade students.
He said he and Jule don’t plan on long plane rides to cross oceans but look forward to taking in the United States, traversing the nation’s highway system en route to streets, avenues and county roads as they move from state to state. They will even take in Elk River in new ways, and be able to enjoy and appreciate what they have done.
“(Jule) has given her of her life to the community,” Cliff Anderson said proudly.
The same can be said for the rest of Cliff Anderson’s family.