Fire Chief L. Jim DeConnick will end a 43-year run with the Mifflin Township Fire Department on June 15.

Fire Chief L. Jim DeConnick will end a 43-year run with the Mifflin Township Fire Department on June 15.

The 13-year fire chief said it was only natural he join the fire service, since his mother Velma worked as a fire phone operator for Mifflin and his late father Leo was chief of the volunteer department before it became a career division.

"Calls would come to mom's house and she would find out the emergency," he said. "She had a list of personnel and she would determine who was the closest to send."

DeConnick helped put out his first fire when he was only 12 years old.

"It was a grass fire on Taylor Station Road," DeConnick said. "They were short on personnel. They picked me up at home. It was a huge fire."

He said working at the fire department is as exciting today as it was when he officially started as an 18 year old.

"Many children dream about being a fireman," DeConnick said. "I've lived it every day for almost 44 years."

During his career, he supervised the extinguishing of the Jefferson Country Club fire about a decade ago.

In the early 1970s, a roof came within inches of collapsing on him at the old Mark's restaurant on Johnstown Road.

"It was a fire of significant size," he said. "I've also been on runs where children and bystanders have lost their lives. It pulls at your heartstrings."

DeConnick has enjoyed the EMS side of the fire department the most.

"I was a paramedic for 25 years," he said. "Fires are exciting but I felt better when someone would bring in cookies to say, 'Thanks for saving a life.' "

DeConnick intimately knows the community he has served, having graduated from Gahanna Lincoln High School in 1969. His mother, three siblings and four children also graduated from Lincoln.

"I know a lot of people," he said. "I tell new recruits on runs to treat them like family. If you treat them like your own family, you can't go wrong."

Deputy Fire Chief Fred Kauser said DeConnick has been an outstanding contributor to the community.

"He's a kind, gentle and loving soul," he said. "His contribution to this community will be difficult to model."

DeConnick's daughter Beth works as a firefighter at Mifflin's McCutcheon Road fire station.

"After 43 years, he will be missed by his firefighting family and it has been an honor and privilege to serve under him as a third-generation firefighter," she said. "On behalf of all the Mifflin firefighters, we want to thank him for the improvements he has made to the Mifflin Division of Fire and the impact he has made on every life he has touched."

DeConnick, 61, said he's probably more light-hearted than other fire chiefs.

"It's good to sit down with them and a have a laugh," he said.

He describes Mifflin as a team-oriented department.

"Not everything comes from the top-down," DeConnick said. "It works from the bottom-up with suggestions. We have a good working group.

"I want them to love the job. I have little personnel issues. I treat them with respect. We want them all to succeed."

DeConnick encourages fire personnel to receive as much training as possible, and he suggests they spend quality time with their families.

"This job can consume you," he said.

DeConnick is looking forward to some vacation time in his retirement.

"I've taken little vacation time," he said. "I haven't fished in 37 years. It's a beautiful country out there. While I'm able, I would like to see many things."

In addition to spending time with his grandchildren in Alabama and Ohio, he also plans to marry his fiancee Lori Wichouski this September in Jamaica.

DeConnick will stay connected to his firefighting brothers and sisters in one way or another though.

He and daughter Beth DeConnick have teamed to purchase a fire truck.

It has already been used to take teens to prom, and he said it will be available for educational purposes for his grandchildren's classmates.

"I have to stay in touch in some way," DeConnick said.

In the meantime, he's sharing last meals with each unit at Mifflin's four fire stations.

While recently visiting one of the station's crews, a run took employees away so DeConnick ended up preparing the meal.

"If something needs done, I'll do it," he said. "It's about helping each other out."



Mifflin Township Fire Chief Jim DeConnick will retire June 15. He started with the division at age 18, was a paramedic for 25 years and has been chief for the last 13 years.