Still the Chief
By Rick Henry
The “Jarboe Battalion,” an unofficial group of Takoma Park firefighters that has existed for more than 50 years and was once seven men strong, is now down to a lone member. But that member is a Chief, and he has no intention of letting the legacy end anytime soon.
“Once a Chief, always a Chief,” said Jimmy Jarboe, 80, as he led a reporter on a tour of the Takoma Park Fire Station on a recent Sunday morning.
He explained that although he retired as a professional firefighter in 1988, because of health issues, he served as volunteer chief for 12 years (he retired in 2008), and he is still referred to as Chief. He is not the only Jarboe to earn that moniker, but he is the last to hold it.
Jimmy Jarboe’s brother, Teddy, was also known as Chief, having served as a Career Fire Chief in Kensington and as a Deputy Fire Chief in Montgomery County, passed away suddenly in February (read his obituary in the April 2019 newsletter), leaving Jimmy as the last of a family that has served as firefighters in Takoma Park and Montgomery County since 1956. (Read the article on the “Family Tradition” in the November 2019 newsletter.)
It was Teddy who was the first Jarboe to join, volunteering at age 16 in 1956. Jimmy followed soon after, and they were quickly joined by three more brothers, their father and their uncle.
But it was Teddy who was the leader, and his sudden death hit Jimmy hard. “It was a shock,” said Jimmy. “He was my number one input and influence.”
Teddy’s background as a longtime firefighter and fire safety educator profoundly shaped Jimmy’s work as a community fire safety advocate, a role he has embraced as a volunteer since his retirement as a professional firefighter. In this role, he attends community events and festivals, speaks at schools and generally takes every opportunity he can to educate the community about fire safety.
It is an important role, and one that only adds to an impressive legacy, said Darrell Hout, Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service Captain, Station Commander, assigned to the Takoma Park station. “He has been doing education and outreach for decades,” Hout said of Jimmy Jarboe. He was one of the originators of the smoke detector program here in Takoma Park.
“His heart has always been in it,” Hout said. And it still is.
On that recent Sunday morning, Jimmy eagerly cornered Hout to propose a new idea for reaching out to the community. And, of course, Jimmy volunteered to be the person to implement it. Which begs the question, “Does he see a time when he will give up volunteering?”
“My wife just asked me if I’ll ever stop,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve been around the firehouse a long time. I rode the trucks for 50 years, and now I really like working with the community and educating the public about fire safety.
“Plus, it’s helping people, it’s saving lives, and being around the station and the people is fun.”
In other words, the Jarboe legacy seems destined to live on. For that, we in the Takoma Park community can all be thankful.
This article appeared in the May 2019 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.