St. George battalion chief retires after nearly 3 decades of firefighting service

Composite image with photo of Chief Ken Guard and his daughter Breaunna Guard during an impromptu retirement gathering at St. George Fire Station No. 8 in Sun River, Utah, Oct. 22, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — American author Kurt Vonnegut once said, “There is no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.” One battalion chief who retired Thursday has spent nearly three decades responding to thousands of calls on one of the many fire engines scattered across St. George and beyond.

Battalion Chief Ken Guard (2nd from left) poses with his fellow firefighters during an impromptu retirement gathering at St. George Fire Station no. 8 in Sun River, Utah, Oct. 22, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Fire Department

On Thursday morning, more than 50 people gathered at St. George Fire Department Station No. 8 in SunRiver to honor St. George Fire Battalion Chief Ken Guard on his last official days of service.

Guard, a 27-year veteran of the department, told St. George News that he has had an amazing career as a firefighter, adding that he has been able to do everything he set out to do over the years – years which have passed by quickly.

“It went by in a blink of an eye,” he said.

Guard began his career in firefighting as a volunteer with the Dammeron Valley Fire Department, and when the opportunity opened, he became a reserve firefighter in St. George when the department was primarily volunteer.

Being with the department for so many years afforded him the opportunity to watch the St. George Fire Department grow – both in personnel and equipment – along with the city.

Photos shown during retirement gathering for Battalion Chief Ken Guard, (second from right) as a volunteer firefighter with Dammeron Valley Fire Department in the 1990s | St. George News

“The city and the number of calls we respond to has grown exponentially,” he said.

In communities throughout St. George, he said, he has met some “amazing citizens,” and even though these meetings typically took place during a difficult time, wrought with fire or some type of disaster, “it was amazing to see how good people are here in St. George.”

The battalion chief went through extensive training at Utah Valley University’s Fire and Rescue Academy, and he was instrumental in establishing training protocols within the department as a result.

“I love to teach, and this job has allowed me to do that,” Guard said.

St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said Guard was instrumental in implementing a training program that included not only instructional classes but also exercises involving mock rescue and firefighting scenarios related to fire service emergency response. He also established and maintained the department’s certification program through the Utah Fire Service Certification Council.

Stoker said that Guard has been “such a great asset and has given so much of himself to our department — along with his family who have as well.”

Dozens gather during impromptu retirement celebration for Battalion Chief Ken Guard at St. George Fire Station No. 8 in Sun River, Utah, Oct. 22, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

For Guard, the next chapter involves a move to Panguitch, where he and his wife already had a second home. They have also purchased a farmhouse, and they are planning on raising animals and spending more time as a family.

The decision to relocate was a difficult one, Guard said, knowing that a move to Panguitch would also mean retiring from the department, as any firefighter working for the St. George Fire Department must also live within the city limits.

But beyond the location and the job itself, Guard said the hardest thing to leave behind will be the interactions with the community and the camaraderie in the department.

“What I’ll miss most are the people and my friends,” he said, adding that the bond that exists between firefighters is one that endures beyond active service and is something he will carry with him as he moves on to the next chapter in his life.

The event was also attended by Utah State Fire Marshal, Coy Porter, along with Washington City Fire Chief, Matt Evans, and many others who spent the morning with the battalion chief on his last day of service.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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