By Garrett Ammesmaki,
John Kirchner is retiring after 16 years with the Lennox Volunteer Fire Department.
Kirchner’s retirement isn’t a surprise to those close to him, as he’s been kicking around the idea for the last year. He finally pulled the trigger in an email to City Administrator Nate Vander Plaats before the July 25 City Council meeting.
Kirchner said the decision comes from having “too many irons in the fire,” as well as an acknowledgement of his age and a decline of passion when it comes to keeping up-to-date with training for the job.
“I’m just not the physical specimen I used to be,” Kirchner said. And, the 47-year-old explained, with the rise of both hybrid and electric vehicles, training has gotten more rigorous.
Though he never would have missed a training session before, recently it became too much to keep up with.
“In the old days, if we had to get somebody out of a car, we’d just start cutting,” Kirchner said. “Nowadays, you have to be careful where you cut because you could endanger yourself or the people you’re trying to rescue.”
“The fire inside just stopped burning as bright,” he added. “The desire went away — not the desire to help people, but the desire to take the time and make the effort to stay up to date with technology.”
Even if it isn’t a surprise to those he worked with, Kirchner’s presence will be missed at the fire house.
Throughout the year, many tried to talk him out of retirement, including Mike Fodness, chief of the Lennox Volunteer Fire Department.
“Everyone goes through a time in their life where they’re too busy and can’t put too much time into volunteering,” Fodness said. “I’d like to have John remain on, but we all understand why he can’t.”
Fodness said he’s thankful for the years of service Kirchner dedicated to the work and, though they haven’t filled his position yet, they’re currently looking for new volunteers to join the team.
He may be retiring from the fire department, but this isn’t the last time you’ll see Kirchner around town. He will still officiate Lennox High School football, and has rekindled his longtime passion for competitive pool.
He’s excited to have more time to spend on other hobbies and with family, but Kirchner said he will miss the camaraderie of the fire house.
“It really is a family there,” he said. “Once you’re part of that group, you’re always part of that group. We look out for each other, and we look out for our community.”
“You can count on those guys for anything,” he continued, “whether it be personal or on the professional side — that field, you can imagine, there are certain things you can’t un-hear or unsee, but those guys were always there, and that’s a heck of a group of guys to work with.”