Local firefighter retires after 30 years of service

Posted: Friday, June 12, 2009

Capt. Dave Boddy finished his last 24-hour shift of his 30-year career Thursday with Capital City Fire and Rescue.

MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

Firefighting is a young man's profession and it's hard on the body, said Boddy, 51. He's just not recovering as quickly as he used to from carrying 75 pounds worth of gear and working 24-hour shifts.

The two fires he'll remember most involved a cruise ship and a historic downtown building.

In July 1996, the 618-foot cruise ship Universe Explorer caught fire between Juneau and Glacier Bay. Five people died and some 70 others were injured. After the fire was out, the boat was brought into Auke Bay, where the department helped remove bodies, keep a firewatch and monitor the atmosphere.

"Nobody had seen anything like it. It was a surreal experience," Boddy said. "It was the first and only time I had been involved in a large vessel fire."

The second fire that sticks out was the May 1987 fire that destroyed Juneau Cold Storage, a historic waterfront building. The cold storage building had stood on South Franklin since 1927 and had survived a mudslide in the 1930s and another fire in 1956.

"It was a big significant fire. A really long fire. I think I was there for 18 hours straight one day," Boddy said.

He said he will miss the family atmosphere of the fire station and mentions that there's no other job quite like it. For Boddy, firefighting literally is a family affair.

His father, Doug Boddy, was also a firefighter and chief of the department when Boddy started working there. Between them, they've got 57 years at Capital City Fire and Rescue.

And his son, Justin Boddy, is a firefighter in Fairbanks.

Dave Boddy grew up around firefighting and the station but never considered it a job until after he married. Boddy was working in construction when he decided to try something new in April 1979 as a volunteer firefighter at the Glacier Fire Station. He was hired as a career firefighter in July 1980.

"I was hooked on it ... ended up being the smartest move I ever made career wise," Boddy said, even though real firefighting isn't like Hollywood depictions.

"It's pitch black, dirty, dark, and you do everything by touch, crawling along," he said.

Boddy also served as a volunteer on his off days until new laws passed prohibiting volunteering at the same place you worked. In those days, the volunteers had all the excitement actually fighting the fires while the hired firefighters drove the fire engines and ambulances.

Boddy made lieutenant in 1993 and captain in 2000. He also worked for five years in administration doing training, but was back on shift by 1999.

"The thrill never wears off, the adrenaline rush that goes with it," Boddy said.



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