Gary Lamons grew up going to fires. Now that he’s the fire chief, what he misses most is not being directly involved in the fires.
In May he took over as Chief of Consolidated Fire District No. 2 which serves Northeast Johnson County. But as a boy he rode to fires with his father, a volunteer fireman who worked nights in his regular job and often got the fire call during the day.
In 1976, Lamons also became a volunteer firefighter in Shawnee and after 10 years as a volunteer applied to become a full-time firefighter, his career since. In those 27 years he has moved through the ranks, making the last leap from division chief to department chief.
“Where we’re most effective,” Lamons says of his department, is preventing fires. “We’re a success if a building sits for 50 years without a fire.” And that’s because the department is heavily involved in building inspections and signing off on plans for new development.
Firefighting has changed dramatically in his years, the new chief says. Well over half the department’s calls now are medical in nature. “We didn’t do a lot of EMS service (years ago), we just had basic first aid training.” Hazardous materials calls also have been added to the firefighter’s retinue.
Heavily involved fires are more rare than in his early years, Lamons says. Most departments then were volunteer and it took longer to arrive at the scene. And the advent of smoke detectors means firefighters get there sooner.
When they arrive, firefighters today attack the fire from the inside instead of fighting it defensively from the outside. Given that, the new wave of television shows that chronicle firefighting aren’t very realistic, he says. “It’s a whole lot more difficult than most people understand.” You are crawling on your hands and knees where it’s completely black.
While his job now leans more to budgeting and strategic planning, his degree in public administrate and his MBA will serve him well. One of his goals is to make the department more visible. “I want to communicate better.” He wants people to know about department services such as providing smoke detectors and free fire inspections.
“Our goal is to provide the best service to the taxpayer for a reasonable price,” he says. And about the job: “I love this fire district.”