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PHOENIX — Longtime Phoenix firefighter Ken Hull said he simply enjoys his volunteer gig and wants to be involved in his local community.
Long term, he figured firefighting could present a career option, but mostly he just enjoyed helping people on what was usually a fairly bad day: a medical emergency, fire or vehicle accident.
Looking back on 25 years, friends and colleagues say the unassuming Hull has proven to be a crucial element of consistency and hard work over the years.
He's offered management continuity between fire chiefs, provided insight on a recent decision to contract fire services with Jackson County Fire District No. 5 and never refused to help out where help was needed.
Hull recently was recognized by the city and continues to work under contract to help the city transition to District 5's protection. A longtime friend and colleague, Division Chief Darin Welburn called Hull a "mainstay for the fire department in many ways."
"He's just always been one of those guys that, when he's available, he's down putting time into the fire department," Welburn said. "Every event that happens down there he's been involved, and it's been that way for the whole period of time he's been around. A lot of the community might not realize how long he's been around. "¦ We're really hoping he'll stick around with District 5."
With average service from fire department volunteers hovering around three or four years, Welburn says Hull is a rare find.
Now 53, Hull moved to the Rogue Valley from Bend in 1982 when his job with the phone company required him to relocate. He began volunteering for the fire department in Bend and continued when he arrived in Phoenix, which then had a primarily volunteer department.
While he began as a firefighter, he moved up the ranks, despite his volunteer status, to captain and eventually assistant chief.
He might have considered the fire department for a day job a handful of times in early years, but held on to his day job instead.
"I just signed on not knowing where it might lead. At one point, I considered it for a job, but circumstances didn't allow it to happen," Hull said. "Then I got too many years in the phone company to just walk away from it."
Over the years, he's watched the city grow by population and volume of emergency calls and watched the fire service, locally and statewide, make big improvements in volunteer training requirements. Now they're the same as those for paid firefighters, striving for improved firefighter safety.
With city residents soon to decide whether to permanently join Jackson County Fire District 5 because of city budget constraints, Hull is in a unique position as volunteer management turned, yet again, volunteer firefighter.
Nonetheless, he says he looks forward to seeing citizens receive better service for a better price and favors annexation.
"It's actually something I think is a good thing to do looking at the cost of the city trying to maintain the same level of services," he said.
"If the city were to try to maintain the department, there's just not enough money in the budget. It's a factor that's always been considered for (city) council's in years past."
Whether city-run or not, Councilman Otto Caster said residents would be lucky to hold on to Hull.
"He's been a regular firefighter for years. Then he was captain and got moved up to assistant chief. He's been acting chief every time we've lost a chief, which happened three times," Caster said. "I don't know how to say enough good about him. He's just a real good guy — he calls me and my wife 'mom' and 'dad.' He's just real hardworking and always there when you need him — just a real stand-up guy."
Whatever voters decide, Hull figures he'll probably be around the station helping out, answering emergency calls and occasionally bringing his two Dalmatians, Sassy and Samantha to entertain kids who happen by the station.
"I'm kind of unique that way. I guess I got bit by the bug pretty early and I just enjoy doing it," he said. "A lot of people spend a number of years in other organizations, like the Lions Club and other service organizations. I just happened to choose this one."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: Ken Hull's last name was spelled incorrectly in the original photo cutline with this story. This version has been corrected.
Longtime Phoenix firefighter honored
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