Gary Desjadon has put out a lot of fires since 1979. But the call that sticks in his mind involved no flames at all.
“As chief, the most significant thing in my career was the gas explosion,” Gary said prior to Tuesday’s Morristown council meeting, where he was honored for service that ended in retirement last month.
The explosion–still under investigation–severely damaged the Morristown & Township Library in May 2010.
“When the library exploded, the biggest concern was how close we came to having some of our members seriously injured. It kept in focus how important the safety of our members is,” said Gary, 52.
When firefighters arrived at the library that morning, alert library staff already had evacuated the building. Manhole covers popped along South Street at Pine Street and Miller Road. One of Gary’s captains was poised to investigate the library situation when a powerful blast blew out windows and doors.
Here is a video clip of Gary at the scene that morning:
Gary owes his firefighting avocation to his brother-in-law, a volunteer who encouraged him to join the department.
“I fell in love with it,” said the 1976 Morristown High School graduate. In addition to the camaraderie, “there is a little bit of a thrill to it. It’s an on-the-edge type of thing.”
Gary started as a volunteer firefighter in 1979, become a paid member of the department in 1985 and rose to the rank of chief in September 2007.
At Tuesday’s meeting he received plaques and accolades from Mayor Tim Dougherty, First Assistant Chief Victor France and Doug Reighard, Morristown Airport fire chief. The council and audience gave him two standing ovations.
“Gary Desjadon will be missed,” said the Mayor.
What’s next for the former fire chief?
“I’m taking some time on that. I’ve got to give it some thought,” said Gary, who was joined at the ceremony by a large contingent of firefighters and by his wife, Elaine. The couple has a 15-year-old son, Brian.
Capt. Jon Prachthauser is serving as acting fire chief. The Mayor’s office is in the process of naming a provisional chief, and a Civil Service exam eventually will determine the permanent choice, Gary said.
Video from the council meeting is coming. Here are more clips of Gary as chief: