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LONGMEADOW — After nearly 30 years with the Longmeadow Fire Department, Chief John Dearborn will hang up his turnout gear for the last time when he retires in November.

Dearborn began his career in the fire service at age 16 as a volunteer with the Monson Fire Department. After a five-year tour in the United States Coast Guard, he returned to Monson for a short time, until a full-time position opened with the Longmeadow Fire Department.

“It was when they had just taken over operation of the ambulance,” Dearborn said, adding that the town sent him to school to be trained as a paramedic.

Dearborn worked his way through the department until becoming chief in 2015, beating out other candidates in a national search. “I had worked really hard in my training and education to put myself in the position where I could get there in my career. I really appreciated the opportunity to run the department. I had a vision for the department, and I think we’ve gotten there. The department’s really progressive,” he said, adding that when he reads cover letters for positions, people write that the department’s reputation is why they want to work there.

In his three decades in Longmeadow, Dearborn has experienced plenty of highs and lows. For him, the best part of being chief has been supporting his team and celebrating their victories. “I really enjoy watching people be successful. Really, as the chief, I just ride the support for these guys, so watching someone graduate from the academy or get promoted to captain, or make a big save, that’s what brings me the most joy in this role.”

Dearborn did not hesitate to pinpoint the coronavirus pandemic as the hardest time on the job.

“Getting the town though the pandemic was incredibly difficult. Seven days a week, sometimes 20 hours a day,” he said.

As the town’s emergency management director, Dearborn was involved in every aspect of the town’s response, from the schools to vaccine clinics.

“I think we did a good job compared to some other communities,” Dearborn said. He also said the town is in a better position to handle such emergencies in the future. “We’ve really standardized a lot of the emergency management,” he said.

Dearborn will miss aspects of the job. “The community’s the number one thing. The people are appreciative of the services we provide. It’s also just a great group of people to work with,” Dearborn said of the firefighters and other Fire Department personnel.

“It kind of feels like you’re moving away from your family. We socialize. We’ve all seen each other’s kids grow. I already told them I’d be stopping in for coffee once a week.”

The search process for Dearborn’s replacement has not yet been decided. The chief said he would like to see someone from within the department’s “talented group of leaders” move up, but added, “Ultimately, it’s the town manager’s decision.”

Considering his options for the future, Dearborn said he would like to spend more time with his hobbies — he and his son enjoy small-scale farming and making maple syrup — but he also has opportunities to teach and consult.

“I want to do something that keeps improving the fire service,” he said, but “I don’t want to respond to anymore emergencies. This place never closes,” Dearborn said of the fire station. “I never really have a real weekend. I’m looking forward to turning my phone off at night.”

Reflecting on his career, Dearborn said, “We’ve had a great run.”