Dodd hangs up fireman helmetPublished 5:53pm Thursday, July 12, 2012
After many blazes and memories, Councilman Jim Dodd wrapped up his 40 years with the Dowagiac Fire Department July 5.
Dodd, who serves as councilman for the second ward, spent 38 years as an active volunteer, then part-time, firefighter. The past two years, after joining the council, allowed Dodd to round out his 40-year goal as an inactive firefighter, a title that didn’t interfere with his active council status. Noting his family’s motivation and support helped him achieve the milestone, Dodd said the opportunity to serve with the department was a big part of his life.
“It’s something a lot of people don’t get to do,” Dodd said. “A couple times, I wanted to retire earlier, but my kids and grandkids wouldn’t let me.”
Though Dodd hung up his fire gear July 5, he said he still has a scanner beside his bed, which he’ll turn on at night. The familiar calls often jog his memory.
“Those sirens and the lights, they get all my memories ticking,” Dodd said.
Some memories include Dodd’s first official day on the job, July 5, 1972.
“I went in an ambulance to a car crash in Indian Lake; I had never been in an ambulance before that,” Dodd said. “But we picked up five people and took them to the hospital.”
Dodd also recalled one of the worst fires he encountered.
“We responded to a call of a fire at a tri-level house on Peavine (Street),” Dodd said.
After putting out the blaze, Dodd explained he was going outside for a breather. He sat next to a tree in the yard and removed his coat. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the intensive care unit due to extreme steam inhalation.
“I still don’t know how I got from the tree to the hospital bed,” Dodd said.
Other memories, however, were less scary, such as the two instances in 1976 and 2000 when he was named Fireman of the Year. He was also awarded the Ambulance Attendant of the Year. He helped form the Cass County EMS Council and was instrumental in getting the department’s first jaws of life.
“We all thought it was something we needed to have,” Dodd said. “The volunteers bought that ourselves through fundraising.”
Dodd recalls many meals with his family in the past 40 years where he had to leave to answer a call. He said the support of his wife, children and grandchildren made retiring all the more sweet.
“They made it easy for me to do what I did,” Dodd said. “They always backed me 100 percent.”
For now, Dodd will continue to serve on city council. He works part-time with Ferguson’s Michiana in Eau Claire and said he hopes to hit the greens for golf, too.
Lt. Robert Smith said the department is happy to see Dodd reach his goal.
“Forty years is a real achievement,” Smith said. “It’s a testament to his dedication to the community.”
Of all the memories and things he will miss most, Dodd said just being a firefighter ranks at the top.
“Going on fire calls with the guys and helping each other,” Dodd said. “That’ll be the biggest thing I miss …. I was always more relaxed inside a burning building than out of it.”