Breck fire chief retires after 27 years |

Breck fire chief retires after 27 years

BRECKENRIDGE – After 27 years in the fire service, Red, White and Blue Fire Chief John Moles announced his retirement Thursday afternoon. Assistant chief Gary Green will serve as the interim chief until the fire district board selects a successor.

Moles spent Friday packing up boxes of photos, awards and other memorabilia he’s collected in his years at the Breckenridge fire station.

“I’ve been cleaning out my desk and finding pictures from 15 years ago, ID cards from when I started with the Breckenridge Volunteers,” Moles said. “I wondered where that went.”

Moles doesn’t plan to do anything for a couple of weeks, then he’ll take a vacation with his wife, Carol, daughters, Kelly and Jennifer, and son, Tommy. Then he’ll look for a second career.

“I really don’t know what, though,” he said. “After doing this for 27 years, I want to do something different.”

Moles joined the department as a volunteer in May 1975 – when the department was still known as the Breckenridge Volunteer Fire Department – and was promoted to maintenance officer a year later.

Moles worked his way up the ranks, first as a training division captain for five years, then as the assistant chief of operations. In July 1993, he was promoted to chief.

During his tenure, Moles saw two station remodels and the construction of a new station near Tiger Road and Highway 9. Several old, outdated vehicles and equipment were replaced.

He worked on some of Breckenridge’s biggest fires – at the Cedars condominiums in Breckenridge and at Jack Pine in Dillon – and numerous car accidents. Emergency response, however, took a different tack on Sept. 11, 2001.

“All of a sudden, we entered a new age,” Moles said. “It was a new age of anthrax and serious terrorism, biological and nuclear threats.”

Over the years, the fire department has matured from volunteers responding from their homes to a 24-hour staff of career, volunteer and resident firefighters. When he started, the Breckenridge Volunteers comprised 14 volunteers. Today, Red, White and Blue comprises 15 volunteers, 30 residents and career firefighters and five administrative staff members.

Over the years, Moles helped the 911 dispatch center and spearheaded the program to get automatic external defibrillators (AED) for cardiac emergencies. He also was the first firefighter in the county to use an AED and save someone’s life.

“We had just gotten certified by a hospital in Denver, and the paperwork was just coming in on a fax,” he said. “But the only thing that came in was a cover sheet – no names, no acknowledgement of certifications. And then we got a cardiac arrest at the Breck Inn (now the Breckenridge Mountain Lodge), and the defibrillator was sitting in my office. I had to decide whether to use it without truly being certified. I was a little nervous, but I opted to use it.”

That call was among his favorites, he said.

“It’s the thrill of a victory,” he said. “You have this training, and you get instant results.”

Under his leadership, fire crews have expanded safety inspections, firefighter and medic training and public education.

Despite all his accomplishments, Moles said he is happiest to have watched his firefighters grow into a group of dedicated professionals with expertise and training that rivals bigger city departments.

“They’re very progressive, a very young bunch of enthusiastic firefighters who want to do the best for the citizens, and they’ll continue to get better every year,” he said. “I’m proud of the whole system. I was proud of the firefighters when I started and where they went year after year. I feel that even back in ’70s and ’80s we were the best, and we kept getting better. We never settled to be “good enough.'”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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