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Two volunteers retire from fire department

Posted: January 23, 2013 - 1:05am
From left, volunteer firefighters Joe Zuboff, 55, and Brian Duncan, 51, pose for a picture during their retirement party at the Auke Bay fire station.  Emily Russo Miller / Juneau Empire
Emily Russo Miller / Juneau Empire
From left, volunteer firefighters Joe Zuboff, 55, and Brian Duncan, 51, pose for a picture during their retirement party at the Auke Bay fire station.

Two longtime volunteer firefighters retired from the fire department this month.

Capital City Fire/Rescue Acting Division Chief Ed Quinto lauded Brian Duncan, 51, and Joe Zuboff, 55, for dedicating an “extraordinary” amount of time to the department.

“Most volunteers usually spend three to five years in the fire department,” Quinto said.

Duncan and Zuboff were fêted recently at a retirement party, and they will also be honored for their service at the upcoming CCFR annual awards banquet.

Duncan joined the fire department in 1985, and has been a volunteer for 27 years. Zuboff joined in the early 1990s and has served 20 years.

Only two CCFR firefighters have more experience than they — Quinto and Captain Lynn Ridle, who have 34 and 27 years, respectively.

Duncan is retiring as the station captain of the Lynn Canal station, and his position will be filled by volunteer Ken Lawrenson, who is the Coast Guard District 17 commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator.

Zuboff is a former lieutenant at Glacier Fire Station who is retiring as a volunteer at the Auke Bay station.

Retiring wasn’t an easy decision for them, the two said.

“We were talking about this years down the road before — we wanted to make sure that everything was in place, and we weren’t going to leave anybody empty-handed,” Zuboff said.

“And we wanted to make sure the fire department was in a good place,” Duncan added.

Both men have held full-time jobs: Duncan is the director of IT at the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and Zuboff delivers fuel for Taku Oil. But fire fighting is their passion.

“This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I think Joe could say the same thing,” Duncan said.

Zuboff nodded in agreement, saying, “It’s molded us into what we are today.”

The two have responded to some of the biggest fires in Juneau and Douglas, including the fires at Valley Lumber and Channel Marina in 1996, J-D Glass & Door and Juneau Cold Storage on South Franklin Street in 1987.

“I was there all night,” Duncan said, remembering the Channel Marina fire. “We had three inches of ice on our suits. We actually froze to the ground, and we’d have to break each other loose to where we could move some more. We were there all night, and it was like 10 degrees.”

Duncan and Zuboff spent most of their years volunteering at the Glacier fire station, which was its own department before consolidating under the CCFR umbrella along with the other stations in 1994.

They’ve also been on all the specialized rescue teams, including the rope rescue team and the now disbanded dive and rescue team.

They’ve had their share of close calls, one of which was too close for comfort, Zuboff remembers. Zuboff earned the mock “Close Call Award” about eight years ago when the storage units by Costco caught fire.

He was leading a team doing roof ventilation when he realized it was in danger of collapse. He led his firefighters off the roof, one by one, down a ladder. Zuboff waited for his team and was the last one to go down the ladder.

“I no later stepped off the ladder, and the roof collapsed,” Zuboff said, adding that when he received his award, “I got up and said I do not want any more close call awards!” he laughed. “Award is in the garage.”

Zuboff said when he joined the fire department, he had no idea that he would be embraced with such camaraderie and lasting friendships. Duncan says the same thing and that he considers his fellow firefighters, especially Zuboff, like family members.

“He’s my brother. Period,” Duncan said.

The two encouraged anyone interested in giving back to the community to join up as a volunteer firefighter.

“We want to say we always need more volunteers,” Duncan said. “This is — in our hearts, this has fulfilled something for us. We feel this is a really rewarding thing that we’ve done, but we always need volunteers because there’s always more work to be done.”

“We’re just another page being turned over,” Zuboff said.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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