About MnFIRE

If you are in crisis, please call our 24-hour peer support hotline: 888-784-6634

The Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE) is the statewide advocacy organization that equips firefighters and the people who care about them with resources to address the growing health crisis in the Minnesota fire service.

Since its inception in 2016, MnFIRE has been dedicated to providing Minnesota’s firefighters with the tools, training and support they need to prioritize and protect their health by focusing on the three health problems most commonly experienced by those in the fire service: cardiac, emotional trauma and cancer.

We are committed to reversing the trend of illness, disease and death. That’s why we partnered with the Minnesota Professional Firefighters (MPFF)Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association (MSFCA), the Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFSA) and the Northland F.O.O.L.S. to prioritize health within Minnesota’s fire service community, and to educate firefighters and their families about risks, preventative measures and resources to ensure long, productive careers.

MnFIRE Initiatives include:

Training

MnFIRE trains Minnesota firefighters to become “MnFIRE Aware” of their higher risks for cancer, cardiac issues and emotional trauma. Led by firefighters and other health experts, the organization has already provided in-person or online training to more than half of the state’s departments, reaching more than 8,000 firefighters across Minnesota.

Awareness

MnFIRE builds awareness about the health challenges firefighters face by sharing information, data and perspective via the media and its social media channels. We encourage you to use the hashtag #MNFIRE to indicate your support for the initiative whenever you’re posting online about firefighter health.

Advocacy

Minnesota currently ranks 48th in the nation in per-capita fire service spending. In response, MnFIRE is spearheading a critical legislative initiative, including the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program, to increase state funding for firefighter health.

Support

In 2018, the organization launched and continues to staff a 24-hour confidential peer support hotline (888-784-6634) for firefighters in crisis.

Your support is critical in helping us ensure our state’s firefighters come home to their loved ones at the end of every shift and the end of every career. For ways to get involved, click here.

The Minnesota Firefighter Initiative is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit recognized by the IRS. Tax/EIN number: 38-4049248

MnFIRE Board Members

Wayne Kewitsch, Executive Director

Wayne Kewitsch is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative. He began his fire service career as a paid-on-call firefighter in 1995 with the St. Louis Park Fire Department and has served as a firefighter, Lieutenant, Assistant Chief and Fire Chief for the Richfield Fire Department. Wayne is passionate about firefighter health and wellness along with how resources can be best utilized to provide excellent service to the public. He is a member of multiple fire service organizations and currently holds leadership positions with the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, the Minnesota Type III All Hazards Incident Management Team and is a former board member for MN Task Force 1.

George Esbensen, President

George Esbensen began his career as a volunteer firefighter in 1986 with the Eden Prairie Fire Department. He has held the positions of firefighter, Squad Lieutenant, and Assistant Chief of Operations, being named the city’s first full-time Fire Chief /Director of Emergency Preparedness in September 2002. He has held numerous local, state, and regional leadership roles in the fire service. Chief Esbensen has also had a successful career in the private sector as an entrepreneur involved in successful initial public offerings and expanding the sales and profitability of other organizations. He retired from the fire service in 2018 and currently is an Outreach Liaison with Hennepin Healthcare for their Trauma Services.

John Wolff, Treasurer

John Wolff started his fire service career in 1986 with the city of Chanhassen Fire Department, serving nine years as Fire Chief.  Since 2014, he has served as the Deputy Fire Chief for the city of St. Louis Park. Chief Wolff is a MnFIRE founder and serves on the Board of Directors as Treasurer. Until the recent addition of Wayne Kewitsch as MnFIRE’s Executive Director, John oversaw MnFIRE support operations and education program management.

Mike Dobesh, Vice President

Mike Dobesh has been in the fire service since 1996, currently serving as the Fire Chief for the Richfield Fire Department. He has been a Chief Officer since 2004. As an active member of multiple other committees and work groups, Mike is passionate about firefighter health, safety, enhancing training, and expanding leadership within the fire service and all of its strategic partners. Mike currently serves on the Minnesota Type III Incident Management team, was Past-President of the Hennepin Fire Chiefs Association and is a co-founder of MnFIRE.

Ken Bence, Secretary

Ken Bence has devoted his life to public health, public safety, and public service. Professionally, he has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare sector, working with technology, managed care and advocacy organizations to improve people’s health and address disparities. He has also spent over 20 years in the paid-on-call fire service, and is currently a Battalion Chief with the Golden Valley Fire Department. Over the course of his career, he has served on numerous commissions, task forces and nonprofit boards, including the American Lung Association of Minnesota, the Minnesota Public Health Association, and the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative.

Mark Rosenblum

Mark Rosenblum served on the Golden Valley Fire Department from 1994-2019 where he held the ranks of firefighter, Training Team Coordinator, Lieutenant and Captain. He also served as the Treasurer for the relief association in Golden Valley for 14 years where he became involved with pension legislation and the Minnesota Fire Department Association (MSFDA). Mark has been President of the MSFDA and Region 8 Director for the past seven years and even though he has retired from the fire service, he is still a strong advocate for supporting firefighters in Minnesota, especially the work of the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative.

 

Chris Parsons

Chris Parsons has held the rank of Captain with the Saint Paul Fire Department and President of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters (MPFF) since 2013. During his tenure with the MPFF, Chris has worked tirelessly with the Minnesota fire service to pass legislation and further policies to reduce occupational cancer among firefighters via phasing out the use of toxic flame-retardants, increasing funding and access to turnout-gear cleaning equipment, expanding Minnesota’s definition of “killed in the line of duty” to include deaths cause by cardiovascular events within 24 hours of a call, and providing easier access to worker’s compensation protection for first responders who suffer mental injuries and COVID-19.

DeeDee Jankovich

DeeDee Jankovich serves as the Director of Program Delivery for MnFIRE and assists with all aspects of training, including scheduling, data management and grant administration. She has also been the Executive Director of the Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA) since 2011. Having been in a fire service family for 18 years, DeeDee has a firsthand understanding of the trials and tribulations that come with being a firefighter spouse.

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Public Disclosures

2017 | 2018 | 2019