125 years of putting out fires

Grand Junction Fire Department Chief Ken Watkins talks about the city council’s July proclamation commemorating the department’s 125th anniversary as senior administrative assistant Harmony Ward holds it up for the audience to see during a celebration and award ceremony Friday in the plaza by Fire Station 1.

Former Grand Junction firefighter Ryan Jordan holds a shadowbox containing his medal for heroism for performing an ice rescue of a hunter in the Colorado River. The shadowbox was given to him by Grand Junction Fire Chief Ken Watkins, left, during an award ceremony at Friday’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of the fire department held in the plaza by Fire Station 1. Jordan was also honored with a 2013 Firehouse ® Magazine Heroism Award and check from the magazine for his part in the rescue.

As evidence that the work of a firefighter is never done, several members of the Grand Junction Fire Department were dispatched out of their own party to answer emergency calls from the citizens they work daily to protect.

The Fire Department held a 125th anniversary barbecue party and awards ceremony midday Friday to celebrate the department’s long history and honor those who have served and continue to serve.

Not long after Chief Ken Watkins began his speech, however, numerous scanners went off, dispatching on-duty firefighters away from the party and back to the real world.

It served as a stark reminder that from 1889 until 2014 the work of putting out fires and helping locals protect themselves and their property has remained the department’s priority.

In fact, the words “GJFD: 125 Years of Taking Care of People and Property” were written on the red, white and blue T-shirts honored guests wore to Friday’s ceremony.

Those words surrounded a photo of the city’s original fire truck, a wagon pulled by two horses.

A lot has changed in 125 years, said Watkins and Jim Geary, 76, a retiree who attended Friday’s party, having worked in the department from 1960 through 1986, retiring as a captain.

Geary noted that back in the days, the firefighters were “worried more about addresses,” searching for homes in Grand Junction’s sometimes confusing maze of roads. “They have GPS now.”

In addition to marked improvements in technology, the local Fire Department has seen changes through the years with the added duties of ambulance transport and HAZMAT response on top of fighting fires and being first responders, Watkins said.

On Friday, the Fire Department was able to thank dozens of people for their service with certificates, congratulatory words and T-shirts to commemorate 125 years of serving Grand Junction.


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