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Front Page » March 18, 2014 » Emery County News » Fire chief rides away after 43 years
Published 156 days ago

Fire chief rides away after 43 years


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By PATSY STODDARD
Editor

Howard Burnett: Green River fire chief

Green River City is seeing a changing of the guard in the local fire department. Howard Burnett has retired after 43 years at the post. He said, "I started in 1970. I have enjoyed helping the people of Green River. I have done many things over the years. I had a trenching company, worked for the city sanitation department, worked at the White Sands missile base, delivered mail from here to Cisco, been a crossing guard and I deliver newspapers. I knew I was getting old when I started helping kids across the road that I had helped their parents cross the road years ago. I have three children two girls and a boy and my wife Sharon has a son who flies the Presidents. He's flown just about everyone including Colin Powell. My one daughter lives here in Green River and another in Grand Junction. I have one son that lives here and hauls crude oil.

"In my spare time I like to make model trains. My wife is a manager for Motel 6 and recently became the manager at the Ogden motel 6.

Burnett said there are several things that stand out over his 43 years of service. The fire at the Bookcliff motel, fire at the S&S garage, Joann Wetherington's house and numerous vehicle fires out on I-70. Green River crews are always being called to I-70. In 43 years of service Burnett has been called to many tragedies, there was a house fire one New Year's Eve that killed three small children. He said, "It was while I was working at he missile base, I had just got to work when I got a call there was a fire in a trailer. I was working as a night watchman at the time. One time in the ambulance I made it to Moab in 28 minutes we had a little boy that had been electrocuted, but he passed away."

Phillip Engleman is the fire chief. He hosted the retirement party for Howard Burnett. "I wish to thank Howard for his 43 years of service to the people of Green River.

Gary Riches read a history of Howard Burnett prepared by Sharon, Howard's wife and Marcie his daughter.

Riches said after 43 years Howard was bidding a fond farewell to turnouts and his fellow firefighters. Howard became a firefighter in 1968. Things were booming in Green River at the time. The White Sands Missile Base was operating and uranium mines were plentiful. Green River had between 1,500-2,000 people living there at the time. Howard was 30 years old and married and working at the missile base. He had children. He was working as a security guard at the missile base and a volunteer fire fighter on the base. In 1971, Clark Riches resigned as fire chief and Howard put on the hat of fire chief. He took the reins and learned all he could about fire fighter training and fire suppression. He was on call as needed and had several other occupations over the years. He always had five or more jobs going on at the same time.

Howard oversaw everything to do with the fire department. He was more than a leader. He was a friend to all. He became an expert in vehicle and structure fires. He was one of the first EMTs for Green River and also oversaw the EMS. Howard was from the school of hard knocks and he learned much by trial and error. Howard always fought fire in his turnout gear. This is fine in the winter, but in the summer when temperatures in Green River reach over 100 degrees it becomes more difficult. Howard stressed training for the fire fighters and the EMS workers. He was in constant communications with the sheriff's office and other agencies. He made sure everything ran smoothly and he always had a scanner and knew when he would be paged out.

Normally Howard drives quite slow, but not when he's going to an emergency, he has the lights flashing and it's full speed ahead. He was always on the radio and let them know he was 10-17 and 10-23; enroute and on scene. Howard always kept up on all the new advances in fire fighting. He was faithful in attending fire chief meetings in Castle Dale every month. Howard welcomed the first women to the fire department in 1994 and many more have joined since then.

Every year during fire safety week, the fire department led by Howard would show up at the elementary school and teach the children not to be afraid of the firemen. They taught them to stop, drop and roll. They showed the children all of the gear the firemen wore and explained all of the equipment and its purpose in fighting fire.

Howard did all the office work associated with the fire department and held many fundraising events to raise money for needed equipment. He started the Green River event yearly calendar with birthdates and special Green River events. The cheerleaders now carry on the calendar. Green River City is seeing a changing of the guard in the local fire department. Howard Burnett has retired after 43 years at the post. He said, "I started in 1970. I have enjoyed helping the people of Green River. I have done many things over the years. I had a trenching company, worked for the city sanitation department, worked at the White Sands missile base, delivered mail from here to Cisco, been a crossing guard and I deliver newspapers. I knew I was getting old when I started helping kids across the road that I had helped their parents cross the road years ago. I have three children two girls and a boy and my wife Sharon has a son who flies the Presidents. He's flown just about everyone including Colin Powell. My one daughter lives here in Green River and another in Grand Junction. I have one son that lives here and hauls crude oil.

"In my spare time I like to make model trains. My wife is a manager for Motel 6 and recently became the manager at the Ogden motel 6.

Burnett said there are several things that stand out over his 43 years of service. The fire at the Bookcliff motel, fire at the S&S garage, Joann Wetherington's house and numerous vehicle fires out on I-70. Green River crews are always being called to I-70. In 43 years of service Burnett has been called to many tragedies, there was a house fire one New Year's Eve that killed three small children. He said, "It was while I was working at he missile base, I had just got to work when I got a call there was a fire in a trailer. I was working as a night watchman at the time. One time in the ambulance I made it to Moab in 28 minutes we had a little boy that had been electrocuted, but he passed away."

Phillip Engleman is the fire chief. He hosted the retirement party for Howard Burnett. "I wish to thank Howard for his 43 years of service to the people of Green River.

Gary Riches read a history of Howard Burnett prepared by Sharon, Howard's wife and Marcie his daughter.

Riches said after 43 years Howard was bidding a fond farewell to turnouts and his fellow firefighters. Howard became a firefighter in 1968. Things were booming in Green River at the time. The White Sands Missile Base was operating and uranium mines were plentiful. Green River had between 1,500-2,000 people living there at the time. Howard was 30 years old and married and working at the missile base. He had children. He was working as a security guard at the missile base and a volunteer fire fighter on the base. In 1971, Clark Riches resigned as fire chief and Howard put on the hat of fire chief. He took the reins and learned all he could about fire fighter training and fire suppression. He was on call as needed and had several other occupations over the years. He always had five or more jobs going on at the same time.

Howard oversaw everything to do with the fire department. He was more than a leader. He was a friend to all. He became an expert in vehicle and structure fires. He was one of the first EMTs for Green River and also oversaw the EMS. Howard was from the school of hard knocks and he learned much by trial and error. Howard always fought fire in his turnout gear. This is fine in the winter, but in the summer when temperatures in Green River reach over 100 degrees it becomes more difficult. Howard stressed training for the fire fighters and the EMS workers. He was in constant communications with the sheriff's office and other agencies. He made sure everything ran smoothly and he always had a scanner and knew when he would be paged out.

Normally Howard drives quite slow, but not when he's going to an emergency, he has the lights flashing and it's full speed ahead. He was always on the radio and let them know he was 10-17 and 10-23; enroute and on scene. Howard always kept up on all the new advances in fire fighting. He was faithful in attending fire chief meetings in Castle Dale every month. Howard welcomed the first women to the fire department in 1994 and many more have joined since then.

Every year during fire safety week, the fire department led by Howard would show up at the elementary school and teach the children not to be afraid of the firemen. They taught them to stop, drop and roll. They showed the children all of the gear the firemen wore and explained all of the equipment and its purpose in fighting fire.

Howard did all the office work associated with the fire department and held many fundraising events to raise money for needed equipment. He started the Green River event yearly calendar with birthdates and special Green River events. The cheerleaders now carry on the calendar. He started a New Year's Eve fireman's ball and would move the fire trucks out and clean the station and everyone would dance. At midnight the sirens would blow.

Howard also started an Easter Egg hunt that was put on at the park. They bought eggs and toys and hid them in the park for the children to find. This will be the 11th year for the egg hunt. The fire department always lights off the fireworks for the fourth of July celebration each year. Howard has been an integral part of the Green River community. He started the Halloween carnival that's held each year at the fire station. Howard and the fire department hang the Christmas lights each year no matter what the weather conditions.

Riches said that wealth isn't measured by how much money you have but how much soul and Howard has soul which he has dedicated to Green River. You can't truly appreciate how much hard work and dedication Howard put into fire chief and his years of commitment. Truly a lifetime of service.

Howard was honored with several gifts and plaques in appreciation for his service to Green River and Emery County as a whole.

Lance Riches a volunteer fire fighter said he couldn't let Howard leave without giving him a big hug and his thanks for allowing him to be a part of the fire department. Howard always worked with Lance and never turned him away when he wanted to help.

Howard's daughter shared a story of a time when her son and nephew were playing outside and caught a tree on fire. "You don't mess with fire when your grandpa is the fire chief, so he made those boys clean the fire trucks all the time."

The very special event to honor Howard for his service ended with much visiting and remembering his years of service.

Howard said he's a little more relaxed now that he's retired and when the siren goes off the only one that jumps now is the dog.

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