L’ANSE, Mich. (WJMN) – All firefighters are heroes, so it’s extra special when one is recognized among their own. One of those being Mike Bianco, Fire Chief of L’Anse Fire Department.

‘Well, my career started many years ago that they used to have a fire truck driver here at the time,” said Bianco. “This was back in the ’70s and they eliminated truck drivers and I was one of the drivers at the time. When they eliminated them, we all ended up going to the village garage. I was used to at that time just taking care of the fire trucks at that time like I said I was just a dispatcher so I wasn’t a fireman. I got into the fire department in 1983 so it’s like 39 years right now.”

It’s a career of serving and protecting his community, in a place that Bianco calls home.

“I love the town,” said Bianco. “The people here are great. Like I said, they’re all supportive of everything so it’s just nice to be a member.”

As fire chief, Bianco might just tell you he’s just doing his job, but to everyone else, he means so much more.

“He’s just been a real tremendous asset,” said Bob LaFave, Village Manager, Village of L’Anse. “A lot of departments are volunteer up here in the Upper Peninsula but Mike’s here everyday. In fact, if he doesn’t show up, I usually kind of get worried about him. He’s the kind of person who is constantly doing for others. There are so many people in our community that he does things for and helps out never seeking recognition, just trying to be there for our community. And of course, he’s been a great leader on the fire department. It takes a lot I think of unique skills to get 30 to 40 people all on the same page and rolling in the same direction and in the entire tenure that he’s been here, he’s certainly been able to do that as well.”

And it shows, being recently recognized as the Copper Country Firefighter of the Year.

“I had no idea,” said Bianco. “For many years, for 39 years we’ve been going to the firemen tournaments and we’ve always had one or two guys at the tournament. We just happened to have nine guys show up and I thought this great. We finally got guys because you get points for marching and racing and stuff like that. So when it came down to, we were sitting, the fire department sitting next to each other and L’Anse Fire Department’s Mike Bianco’s name came up and I was a little shocked. I mean I knew where it came from, the guy sitting next to me got slapped. It was a shock and it was a surprise. It was an honor to me because there are so many different firemen. It was a great honor to have something like that.”

“I can’t think of anyone who has given more and who has been there for the community more than Mike,” said LaFave.

In a about a year from now, Bianco says he plans on stepping down as fire chief, so to be recognized like this, is a great start to capping of his time in this role.

“It was and honor and a shock,” said Bianco. “Like I said, it’s like you don’t believe it.”

“I think that’s probably the biggest takeaway about Mike Bianco is that no matter what is needed our who needs help, he’s like the first guy there,” said LaFave.