Bidding adieu to Chief Pinney
By Fran Odyniec
For The Madison Press
In a touching ceremony conducted Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 17, at the fire station on West Main Street in Plain City, Pleasant Valley Joint Fire District (PVJFD) Chief Greg Pinney took his leave of the people he called family.
Under a hazy Ohio sky, a full complement of PVJFD firefighters including Ashes, the district’s fire dog, posed with the chief for photos on the station’s driveway with three of the district’s units, engines 261, 262, and 263 in the background on his last day in the fire service.
Wednesday marked Pinney’s retirement from the PVJFD which he had served for 29 years, the last 19 as chief.
“It started out as a routine day,” said Pinney as he received a continuing stream of well-wishes, hand shakes, hugs, and pats on the back from his firefighters.
“It’s getting’ close,” he said quietly around 2:30 p.m. in anticipation of his final dispatch after which all of the PVJFD units would escort the chief for his “last ride home.”
The line would include Engine 263, the first truck that Pinney had ridden along with his longtime friend and fellow-firefighter, Battalion Chief Brent Smith.
“We grew up on that truck,” said Smith who would take over as acting chief when Pinney answered his last dispatch later that afternoon.
“It’s been kind of emotional for everybody,” he continued. “Toni’s (PVJFD fiscal officer Toni Stevens) holding back tears and the chief has been doing tongue bites.”
As she stood on the lower part of the driveway observing the camaraderie and photo-taking, Pinney’s wife Pam agreed with Smith.
“I think there’s mixed emotions,” she said picking up on the varied reactions of the staff and firefighters ranging from good luck to a combination of sadness and happiness.
With all his firefighters lined up across the bay doors, the chief, with Pam by his side, stood and gazed at his department.
“I’m very proud of you,” he told the “Keepers of the Valley.” “I will think of you every time I hear a siren.”
Then at 2:49 p.m., a message came over the fire radio from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch office in London and echoed throughout the fire bays.
“We celebrate the career and retirement of Chief Greg Pinney,” the dispatcher intoned. “We wish you the best. Time out: 2:49.”
At that moment the command was given to the PVJFD firefighters, “Attention. Honor guard, salute.”
Right arms went up in a crisp and meaningful tribute to Chief Pinney.
With Pam’s arm around him, Pinney returned a salute that was meant for each and every one of those firefighters.
At the order, “Dismissed,” the firefighters broke out with a rousing round of applause as Pam and the chief wiped back tears of gratitude. Ashes, the district’s fire dog seemed to more than know what was taking place and joined in with a chorus of barks directed to her close buddy, Chief Pinney.
The chief then went up to the line, shook hands and exchanged hugs with each of his firefighters.
After he reached the last in line, it was time to climb aboard Engine 263 with Pam for a last ride through Plain City. At the wheel was Battalion Chief Brent Smith who had the honor of driving his fellow-firefighter home. The rest of the PVJFD fleet fell in behind 263 along with a unit from the neighboring Jerome Township Fire Department. At positions along the way, units from the Plain City Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office saluted Pinney.
Much to his surprise, as Smith brought Engine 263 to a stop in front of the Pinney home, a unit from the Union Township Fire Department in Milford Center (Pinney’s first department) was waiting to greet the chief.
As the engine crews, police and sheriff’s deputy gathered around him in front of Engine 263, Pinney said, “Guys, I’ve run out of speeches.”
Before he turned his fire radio over to Smith, Pinney called into the dispatcher.
“At 13:05, this is the last traffic from retired Chief Pinney,” he said.
After the crews and law enforcement personnel including Plain City Police Chief Jim Hill wished Pinney well and returned to their vehicles, he went over to the nose of 263 and with the palm of his hand gave it an affectionate rub.
The stillness was broken by the unmistakable sound of the deep and piercing sound of the units’ fire horns, in unison for one last salute to the chief.
Chief Greg Pinney, now retired, looked on from his driveway as the trucks of the PVJFD rode into the lengthening shadows cast by the late afternoon sun.