Kevin Jones future looks a little different than his past. He sees work in his wood shop, spending time with his wife and family and possibly a vacation to a tropical island.
Jones, Yukon’s fire chief for the past 7½ years, is preparing for his new life in retirement. His last day with the department he has called home for 28 years is July 31, officially. Unofficially, it will be July 28.
At 56, Jones’ life has been about the fire department since he was in his late-20s. But, he said something tells him it is time to make a change in his life.
“There’s not one reason,” he said of his decision to step aside.
Jones, who grew up in Tuttle, got interested in firefighting as a kid. As a teenager, Jones worked for Tuttle’s ambulance service. Some of the drivers also were firefighters, and Jones said listening to them talk about the job was exciting.
At about the same time, the television show “Emergency!” was a hit.
The show, which ran from 1972 to 1979, featured the exploits of firefighters in Los Angeles. Jones said the show’s depiction of being a firefighter was exciting and enticing.
“It got me interested in it,” he said.
Jones started where all firefighters start, learning the basics.
He served as a firefighter for 12 years, worked his way up to being a driver and eventually advanced to being a captain before taking on his role as chief.
“When I was working on the rigs, one of the things I never wanted to be was a liability to my crew. I always wanted to be an asset. Working on the rigs, you have to be physical and smart,” he said. ”The fear is you become less physical and the guys have to carry you. I never wanted that to happen.”
And while Jones remains physically fit and could fight fires if needed, it’s been years since he’s been on the line.
But he also said there was something inside him that said it was time to hang up the bunker gear for good.
“I just didn’t want to stay too long and be a liability to the department,” he said.
Jones also said he has no regrets.
“It’s been a great career. It’s a little like getting to work with your friends. It is an amazing thing. It really hasn’t been work,” he said. “It’s been a great joy to be able to do this.”
Firefighters often meet people on the worst days of their lives, whether it is a car accident or a house fire. Jones said being able to be a comfort to those people is a blessing.
“Even though you see a lot of terrible things happen to people, we’re there trying to do something to fix that. It’s nice to be able to try and find a solution,” Jones said.
“People are having the worst day of their lives and you are there to hopefully make it better. It has been an honor. It is a privilege to help people, and I’ve never taken that lightly,” he said.
Jones said he will miss the camaraderie of working with the others in the fire department.
“I’ve always been a team guy. You don’t do it by yourself. You do it with others, it is a team effort. That’s a real joy,” he said.
Jones said he takes pride in what has been accomplished at the department since he joined.
The city has added more than a dozen firefighters, a second fire station and has lowered the city’s Insurance Standard Office rating from a 5 to a 3. Jones said the rate could go even lower after another ISO rating is released later this year.
But he said his biggest pride is watching young firefighters learn and grow into seasoned firefighters.
“I take great pride in the amount (of time) I’ve got to be in these guys’ lives and see them succeed. I watch them on a job – a fire or a car accident – and see how good they are, how efficient they are and how professional they are on the job. To think I had something to do with that, that I helped train those guys and work with them. That is an important part. That is a legacy,” Jones said.
Jones said he plans to spend some time building furniture, watching flowers grow and spending time with Crystal, his wife of 35 years. He has no plans for another career.
“I’ve gotten myself use to the idea that I’m opening another chapter of my life. Change is inevitable and we should embrace it as much as we possibly can,” he said.
“I want to do more. I believe we are born to be creative and we all do that in different ways. I would like to spend the rest of my life being creative.”
Meanwhile, City Manager Jim Crosby said Jones’ leadership will be missed.
“I was the one who hired (chief) Jones. He has been a very excellent chief, and has done a good job for us,” he said. “I’ve been very happy with him.”
Crosby said Jones made the transition from being on the line to administration without a problem, something that is not easy to do.
“It’s a big transition to go from being one of the guys to being the boss,” he said.
In many cases, they have worked together for years, sharing breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’ve been in the trenches together, Crosby said.
“There is a bond. It is very difficult to step up and do that, but Jones has done an excellent job,” he said.
Crosby said the city wishes him well on his new adventure.
Meanwhile, Crosby said the city has received about 10 applications to fill the position.
At least two of those applicants came from within the department.
Crosby said a committee was expected to begin interviewing candidates this week, and hopes to narrow the list to two by next week, when final interviews would be conducted.
“We’re hoping to have that position filled in the next few weeks,” Crosby said, pointing out the goal is to have a new chief in place by early September.