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Source: The Kokomo Perspective

Kokomo firefighter puts finishing touches on childhood dream

by Tim Turner
January 13, 2011

Not everyone actually grows up to be what they wanted to be as children, but one firefighter just retired after 33 years of living out his childhood dream.

Jack Mellinger joined the Kokomo Fire Department in 1978, and it was one of the happiest days of his life.

“It was a childhood dream,” said Mellinger. “It was something I always wanted to be, but I thought I would never have the opportunity. The opportunity arose and I never wanted to leave.”

Mellinger said the job hasn’t changed that much from when he first joined the Kokomo Fire Department. He said when the alarm goes off, they respond to the call. He said there are a few different things that have changed.

“Our equipment is so much better now and the devices that we’ve got,” said Mellinger. “We have imaging cameras that we can see inside of smoke for hot spots and warm bodies. Our hoses were 2.5 inches when I came on now we have 5-inch. In the old days, we didn’t have air packs. That didn’t stop us from going in and putting out fires. The trucks are so much better it is unbelievable. You don’t have to feed them oats anymore. We used to ride on the back and hold onto something on the way to a fire. Now you got to sit down and you have a seatbelt on and a gear pack on and everything. We didn’t care. We thought if we got in trouble we would jump off.”

He also said firefighters have more specialized training.

“It is a lot different now since 9/11. We have a Hazmat team now, and back in the day everybody was on the team,” said Mellinger. “If an incident came, we all went to it. It wasn’t like we had a paid team. We were all a part of rescue team; nobody got special pay or anything like that. If a situation arose, we responded.”

Mellinger said even though he knows it is time for him to retire, he is still going to miss the job.

“It is going to be tough,” said Mellinger. “I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning and I haven’t been to bed since. I have been thinking about it all day how this is my last day. I have been looking forward to it, but I am going to miss the job.”

Mellinger said there are two things he is going to miss the most.

“Being around the guys, and just the job,” said Mellinger. “I just loved the job. It fit me good. I enjoyed it. I have made a lot of friends over the years.”

Even though Mellinger served the community for 33 years, he expressed gratitude toward the community on his last day.

“I am grateful to the community for giving me the opportunity to do this for so long,” said Mellinger. “I hope I have carried the torch well for the community and done a good job. I feel like I have done a good job. It is time for me to move on. I do appreciate the opportunity of getting to do this.”

Mellinger was also grateful for his family.

“I feel sorry for them,” said Mellinger. “It is rough being associated with a firefighter. My family is great. My kids are wonderful.”

After doing what he loved for 33 years, Mellinger doesn’t have any big plans for his retirement.

“Hopefully I won’t be doing anything,” said Mellinger. “Go fishing. Take care of my wife; she is going to be working.”

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