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“I can’t even imagine how many fires Jeff has stopped before they even happen,” Bergum said.
‘Just knew how to fight fires’
Davis has served at the department for so long that special state legislation had to be created to allow him to continue earning his pension past a cap on years served.
“He’s made history in the state,” Thill said. Although other firefighters have stayed on departments for decades — Pete Lundell, for example, has served in Rosemount for 44 years — it’s becoming more rare.
“It’s probably something you’ll never see in the future,” Thill said. “There are a lot of wonderful firefighters out there that have the 40 or 50 years, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from them. But where Jeff is really rare is just the number of calls and the number of trainings in the last 40 years that he’s been to.”
From risking his life and climbing into a second-story window before a hose was ready for his protection, to performing CPR on a swimmer for more than 45 minutes and saving his life, Davis has seen it all.
“Jeff Davis is the type of guy that just knew how to fight fires,” Bergum said.
At a celebration last week for Davis, Tourville proclaimed July 14, 2013 as “Jeff Davis Day.”
Davis says his other passion is running marathons. This year, he completed his 33rd Grandma’s Marathon. But the 40 years at the fire department so far is his most important marathon, he said. And he wants to keep running for as long as possible.
“I’ve been heehawing about [retiring], but it never happens. It’s going to be hard for me to leave,” Davis said. “The firefighters are like family. They kid around a lot with me. I’m not as fast as I used to be. They’ll say, ‘Come on, old man, get going!’” he said with a laugh. “I still outdo some of the guys. So it doesn’t bother me.”
Although he is humble and doesn’t think he’s doing anything extraordinary, Thill said, his colleagues definitely see it.
“The fact that for 40 years, he’s been dropping everything he has, on his spare time, to help out the citizens of Inver Grove Heights is just an unbelievable accomplishment,” Bergum said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Liala Helal • 612-673-1775