Fading siren: Battalion Chief Dennis Jones retires from Craig Fire/Rescue after 23 years
October 19, 2012
“He is as solid a firefighter as you will ever meet. He is as solid a man as you will ever have the privilege of knowing and I am blessed to always call him my brother.”
— Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Bill Johnston about the retirement of Battalion Chief Dennis Jones
Few things get the blood pumping harder than the sound of a late night page, the whirring of a siren or chasing after a cloud of smoke out on the distant horizon.
Craig Fire/Rescue is an organization that not only prides itself on recruiting, training and retaining high quality firemen and women, but also for attracting thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies to join its ranks.
And for more than two decades one name has been synonymous with the Craig fire department.
But Battalion Chief Dennis Jones, 52, said Thursday he wasn't looking for a thrill when he reported to the Craig fire station for the first time on Oct. 26, 1989, which coincidentally also was his 30th birthday.
"Just like Chief (Bill) Johnston does now, I was being recruited to join the department then," Jones said. "I figured why not be a part of something that makes a difference? What a ride it's been and what a great decision."
On Thursday night Jones formally submitted his letter of resignation to the Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board for approval.
Jones fittingly decided his last day would be Friday, Oct. 26, his 53rd birthday.
Though Thursday marked the official announcement of his retirement, Craig Fire/Rescue firefighters were aware of the news for almost a month.
In late September Jones called a meeting with Johnston and told the Chief it was time to put the fire department behind him.
Shortly after that meeting Johnston issued this message to the department:
"Chief Jones met with me this afternoon and delivered the Letter of Retirement you can read below.
"I experienced many different emotions at that moment as I have served with Dennis Jones for 23 years, and in that time I have stood shoulder to shoulder with him through the toughest of times and at the most joyous and happiest of times.
"He kept me grounded. He kept me laughing and yes we have cried together.
"He is as solid a firefighter as you will ever meet. He is as solid a man as you will ever have the privilege of knowing and I am blessed to always call him my brother."
The feeling, Jones said Thursday, is more than mutual.
But Jones also admitted that 23 years of responding to fires, car crashes and a variety of other medical emergencies have taken its toll.
"Unfortunately the calls that stay with you usually are the worst," Jones said. "I'm a native of Craig serving a population of 10,000 people. A lot of the calls I go on are people I know or I'm related to.
"It's impossible not to have that emotional connection and I'm tired of that."
Jones has witnessed so much death in his time with the department that he no longer engages in what used to be one of this favorite recreational activities.
Before joining Craig Fire/Rescue Jones was an avid sportsman and hunted everything from Elk and deer to birds.
"Now I just assume take their picture," Jones said. "When people talk about getting deer out of the community I say screw that. Let them eat every flower or tree I can plant because that's life. I like to see that."
Though Jones is looking forward to enjoying his cabin at Freeman Reservoir with his family and snow machining with his son in Gunnison, leaving his other family behind was not an easy decision.
"You've got your family at home and you've got your family down here, but there's a difference," Jones said. "I would invite only a couple of these guys to my house for dinner, but I would also put my own life on the line for every one of them.
"There's a camaraderie you develop here so that it gets to a point that you enjoy coming to work and you get grumpy when the pager doesn't go off for a long period of time."
Strangely enough the pager Jones has grown to love also represents the bittersweet feelings surrounding his decision to retire.
In September while meeting with Johnston, Jones' pager went off.
But he would not be going out on that particular call and walked out of the station amid a flurry of activity.
By the time Jones reached his truck parked outside on Yampa Ave. Engine 1 was already rolling out to the scene, its grinder siren wailing as it passed by.
"When I heard that noise tears started rolling down my face," Jones said. "For the rest of my life every time I hear a siren I'm going to look up in the sky for that column of smoke.
"Walking away from something I've enjoyed for so long was a tough, tough decision. I'm going to miss it."
Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.