SWARTZ CREEK — Firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel lined up to honor Jack King on his 86th birthday May 19.
King, a firefighter for 45 years, is the longest-serving firefighter in the history of the Swartz Creek Area Fire Department. He now serves as battalion chief and support.
A man of few words, King said it made him feel “good” to see the parade of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances. Represented in the procession were the Swartz Creek Area Fire Department, Gaines Township Fire Department, Metro Police Authority, Clayton Township Police Department, Argentine Township Fire Department, Flint Township Fire Department, Flushing Fire Department, Fenton Township Fire Department, Swartz Ambulance, Elite EMS, and Medstar Ambulance.
“He’s everybody’s Papa Jack,” said SCAFD Chief Dave Plumb. “He’s the legacy of the fire department. Everyone knows Jack.”
“He’s our mentor,” said Lt. Walt Melen. “He has taught every one of us. This was to honor him.”
Originally, the parade was just going to be the SCAFD. But as word got out, other agencies said they wanted to honor King, as well.
King still spends a lot of time at the fire station, helping maintain the equipment, and sharing a wealth of knowledge that includes everything from firefighting skills to department history.
“He’s always here, puttering around,” said Melen. “He knows where everything is, and he has his own organization system.”
“We joke that he has a sensor at his house that tells him when someone is at the station, because he’s always showing up,” said Plumb.
“I was here to do a truck check at 2 a.m., and he shows up at 2:05 a.m.,” added Melen.
King’s daughter, Dawn, said he hasn’t been out much since the COVID-19 pandemic, so the parade did a lot to cheer him up.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said. “He’ll help anybody, in a heartbeat. He’ll do anything for the fire department and for this town.”
King was born and raised in the Swartz Creek community. In his teens, he worked on local farms. He worked for 35 years at the Swartz Creek Elevator, then 20 years at Pre-Fit Door in Swartz Creek.
He joined the SCAFD on March 9, 1975. In 2017, his peers on the SCAFD voted him Fire Officer of the Year for his dedication and for the countless hours he gives to the department.