If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Tony Thomason has called it quits after 30 years on the Brownstown Fire Department.
“A lot of people told me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time,’ and it was time,” Thomason said.
It all started in 1991, when Thomason’s father-in-law was on the department, as well as a couple of friends, at the time.
“I thought it would be a lot of fun and something I would want to do,” he explained.
Thomason started as a member, them moved to secretary and safety officer, training officer, and worked is way up the ranks from there. Thomason became assistant chief in February 2012, and when the chief stepped down, Thomason assumed the head of the department in January 2017.
Back when he started, not everyone had pagers, and when the tone would go off, someone would have to come up to the station and ring the alarm, to let those without pagers know there was a call.
“Now, we have apps on our phones,” he laughed.
Thomason works at Continental Tire in Mt. Vernon (coincidentally for 30 years as well), and for many of those year, he was on the night shift, which made it convenient when daytime calls came into the station. For the past several years, he has been on the dayshift at work. Now, members are “pretty scarce” in Brownstown, but neighboring department skeep an ear on their “radio.”
“The neighboring towns are pretty good about watching out for us,” he said. “It just got harder to wake up and go into work after getting a call in the night. I thought ‘The job comes first’.” Thomason says that was what pushed him into the decision.
And, it’s not only Tony who has been a volunteer. Wife Shelly still serves as a first responder, and his son, Tim, was a member until he moved to Vandalia. However Tony says he is done, at least for now.
With everything he has seen while on the department, would he do it again?
“Definitely. One thing I would tell a new recruit is that it’s a brotherhood. Everyone has their differences, but once that tone goes off, we are one. We’re a big family,” he said. “Even now, there are still a lot of friends on the department and if I needed something, I can call the guys and they would be here as soon as they could.”
Thomason recalls two instances which stick out over the past 30 years.
“There was this one call that came in for a possible heart attack. When we got there, the patient had no pulse and the guys in the ambulance started compressions and CPR. We even shocked him a couple of times,” Thomason explained. “I followed the ambulance in my personal vehicle and once they got to the hospital, I got out to open the door and he was sitting up and talking with the medic,” he mused.
The other incident involves an incident with his son as he responded to a motorist assist in a storm with both parents, three children and a grandmother. The car had run off the road and a truck driver had stopped to put the family in his cab to warm up until help arrived. Tim had just left the rear of the ambulance to check on the family when another semi hit the back of the one which stopped, pushing it into the ambulance, just where the younger Thomason was merely moments before.
“That was probably the scaredest I have been,” Tony said.
Over the years, probably the biggest change has been in people themselves, as Thomason echoes the woes of many other organizations and the lack of willing volunteers to join.
“When I was added to the department, there was a waiting list of 10-15 names wanting to be on the department. Now, we have three or four possible candidates and vacancies on the department,” he said. “It’s a different society than it was 30 years ago when we were younger. Once a guy came in and see what they could do, they would jump in and help out. Now, there is a lot more going on than back then.”
Thomason’s last day was Wednesday, June 30. He was succeeded by Bruce Dush as chief.