The man behind the badge – Fire Marshal Frank Dearborn. He has a file on just about every building in town – residential and commercial – and knows enough secrets about national security issues that he’s developed a healthy respect for what’s considered confidential at any level.
Since 1998 Frank has worked for the Evergreen Fire Protection District, a job he started two weeks after retiring from a career in the Air Force – 22 years, 11 months, and 3 days of a career, to be specific.
Frank’s tenure as a uniformed member of the armed services equipped him with training and experience in firefighting, being an emergency medical technician, dealing with hazardous materials, and developing the ability to train others – all of which made him an attractive candidate for the job with EFPD 15 years ago. From fire inspections to operations, he taps into those talents on a daily basis. He's disciplined and a team player.
He’s been a certified firefighter for nearly 40 years, serving on a variety of bases all over the world, from Texas to Alaska, Japan to Saudia Arabia, including service at the highly secretive Falcon Air Force Base (now known as Shreiver AFB) near Colorado Springs, a backup to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD.
Over the years, he’s served in every capacity – from firefighter to fire chief. He’s even volunteered as a firefighter off base in some communities while he was a member of the Air Force. “We saw more action off base than we saw on base,” he explains.
As fire marshal, Frank is responsible for working with contractors and homeowners whenever there’s a new building constructed – or a tenant remodel in a commercial building – in the 125-square-mile fire district, ensuring that construction projects meet county building and safety codes. It’s as basic as being certain that a fire truck can make it up a driveway to access a building on fire and as specific as knowing where to cut off the power and whether or not a generator kicks in to keep power going when the power’s been cut. He’s earned a reputation for working with the homeowner and property owner, enforcing code with some flexibility rather than to the letter of the law.
“I have three customers – the building owner, the customers in the building, and the firefighters who go in,” he says, explaining that he needs to know where the hazards are in every building.
We’re really proud of the work he does,” says Fire Chief Mike Weege. “He’s done a fantastic job of growing the fire prevention program. We’re very fortunate to have him running that division. At 1:00 in the morning he will call in or just show up [at a fire] to pitch in. He goes above and beyond. The firefighters really appreciate him.”
Evergreen firefighters have honored him twice for his “devotion to life safety through leadership, training, support and friendship.”
His dedication to co-workers, fellow firefighters and community may be in the name of safety, but Frank’s a person who loves his job. He enjoys being a support to the volunteers, helping them on scene, and working together as a team. And they appreciate his willingness to share his knowledge.
The fire marshal’s division (he’s one of three) is also responsible for teaching fire safety to the public – things like teaching kids in all the public and private schools in the area about operating fire extinguishers, or being in charge of public courses on First Aid and CPR.
Frank provides instruction on hazardous materials to the rookie class of new volunteers each year. “I’m also the mean person who blocks the fireworks at Skate the Lake if people violate the regulations,” he says.
But what Frank enjoys just as much as his job is coordinating the Christmas Firefighters program, which started in 2001 in conjunction with Walmart, enabling local kids to shop for toys – kids who might not otherwise have gifts under the tree to unwrap. Sometimes the generosity spills over to putting a holiday dinner on for an entire family.
With referrals coming from schools, churches and social service organizations, invitations are extended by the various organizations; and firefighters are paired with children during the shopping process. Sometimes a child will choose to buy gifts for other family members instead, and on those occasions a firefighter will march the child back to the toy department with additional funds to ensure the child has something for him/herself.
This year the firefighters took care of 82 people, and Evergreen Realtors donated teddy bears for all the children. The bulk of the money to fund the project comes from a grant from Walmart, with additional donations coming from individuals throughout the district. Shoppers at Walmart who observed the firefighters shopping with children even made on-the-spot donations. No taxpayer dollars or contributions to the volunteer fund are used for this purpose.
“About 25 firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers participated this year,” Frank pointed out. “Some got dressed up in seasonal costumes.” Frank, himself, has dressed as an overgrown elf in the past.
Frank’s devotion to the Christmas Firefighters program is obvious, providing a peek beyond his official demeanor. “It’s heartwarming,” he says. “It brings a tear to the eye. Some of those helped cry and give hugs.” And it appears to give him a reason to be a kid again.