Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 20, 2018

Six to retire from fire department

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jun 18, 2018
Jeff Six

Working four jobs at once starts to wear on a person.

That’s why Jeff Six has decided he wants to reduce that number by one. At the end of this month, Jeff Six will retire from the Fairfield Fire Department after 28 years.

Six is retiring to spend more time with his wife, Katie. He also wants to devote his attention to the 34th Army Band, which he has been in for 35 years, and is hoping for five more. He has his sights set on being promoted to First Sergeant.

 

Fairfield native

Six is a hometown boy, having grown up in Fairfield and graduated from Fairfield High School in 1981. Two years later, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and the 34th Army Band where he plays the trumpet.

He began playing taps at military funerals, and that led to a part-time job performing funeral honors across the state. Funeral honors include not just taps but many other parts of the ceremony such as folding the flag, presenting it to the family, and carrying the casket. He does about 100 of those a year.

“It’s my way to give back to the service,” Six said.

Six’s day job is a manufacturing engineer at The Nelson Company, a position he’s held nearly his entire adult life since graduating from Indian Hills Community College.

 

Hop aboard

Six’s cousin Doug Six was captain of the Fairfield Fire Department in the 1980s when he encouraged Jeff to join. After passing his civil service test, Six became a firefighter in 1990.

He went through the typical training, doing drills, learning the gear, and going through a smokehouse that simulated a fire. But Six said 90 percent of his training was hands on, during real-life calls.

Doug had faith in his cousin’s abilities and often put Jeff in the front line, asking him to be the first in entering a burning building or operating the Jaws of Life at an accident scene.

Six went to weekend schools where he trained even more. Within about five years, he could do just about anything. He worked his way up the ladder to captain and then to assistant fire chief, a position he’s held for 14 years.

He has led the Adopt-a-Firefighter program, which teaches fire safety to second-graders. Firefighters dress in full gear in the hopes that children won’t be scared of them if they see them during a real fire. One of Six’s proudest moments was learning that a few second-graders used the knowledge they learned in class to alert their families of a fire and get out of the house. For their valor, they won awards from the governor.

“One little girl had a fire in her house the day I came to class,” he said. “She did everything she was supposed to do to get her mom and little brother out of the house. That was pretty cool, and it was proof that our program worked.”

 

Toughest fires

A fire call Six will never forget occurred in either 1993 or 1994 at a big house near Maple Street and East Burlington Avenue. Then captain Greg Hanshaw and Six had to feel their way through the house because the smoke made it impossible to see.

“When we got to the room with the fire, we couldn’t get the door open because there were no doorknobs on the doors, and we don’t know why,” Six said. “These were big, 8-foot-tall oak doors. Greg and I had to lay on our backs and kick the door at the same time.”

Finally, the two kicked the door opened. As they did, flames shot out from the room and rolled over the top of them. They proceeded to extinguish the fire with a hose.

Six also recalls fighting two large fires on the square, and the biggest fire of all was the one that consumed an apartment building at 406 W. Depot Ave. in 2011.

“That was a 70-year fire because we hadn’t not seen a fire that big since the high school burnt in 1939,” he said.

Six said he’s proud to have served with so many brave firefighters, and that it’s hard to say goodbye. At the same time, he knows the department is in good hands under the direction of Fire Chief Scott Vaughan.

“I want to leave the department when it’s in good shape, and it is,” he said. “I’ll always be there to support [my fellow firefighters]. Just because I’ll be off the department doesn’t mean I won’t be watching them.”

 

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