Driver Jon Helton Retirement E17/D 

27 years ago, Jon “Jonny” Helton joined the Seattle Fire Department in Recruit Class 72 on April 17, 1996. Driver Helton began his Hall of Fame SFD career assigned to Engine 17, D-Shift and made it his forever home! (See attached flyer for more details on his amazing 27 year career!)

He will be working his final shift this Tuesday, May 30th at Fire Station 17.

Stop by Station 17 this Saturday May 27th (Noon to 1700) during the day or on Tuesday, May 30th, to wish friend, mentor, and Engine Driver extraordinaire Jon Helton a Happy Retirement.

27 years ago, Jon Helton joined the Seattle Fire Department in Recruit Class 72 on April 17, 1996. Driver Helton began his Hall of Fame SFD career assigned to Engine 17, D-Shift and made it his forever home! Jon began his career with Lt. Kym LeRoy as his first officer and Joe Miller as his Driver. Helton secured the Engine 17 Driver position about 5 years into his career and never found a good reason to leave. For most of his career he worked alongside Ladder 9 Drivers Pat Irvin and Scott Houle, who provided a wealth of mechanical and operational knowledge and mentoring. He has never been afraid to ask questions, not only for himself to learn more about his job, but also to assist those who he sees need assistance. For the many recruits who came through 17’s, Jon had a heart for mentoring and helping anyone who had questions. This passion led to him developing and advocating for the Driver Conference Program in 2016 with Dalen Roesijadi, initially developed as a Battalion-wide mentoring program for backup drivers who had questions and needed an avenue to find the answers, eventually becoming a department-wide forum for all drivers to discuss strategies, tactics and challenges they faced. Over the last 15 years, Jonny has been an important part of developing the Engine driver position, assisting with Hose bed configurations and apparatus design, advocating for the Driver Conference Program, and recently working on the committee to develop the SFD’s first Engine Driver/Operator Certification Program with Lt. Steve Crothers, Paul Coale, Mark Foree, Marcus Ricarte, and myself. Many Drivers will attest to the fact that Helton has spent many off-shift hours helping them be successful in their Driver position. Jonny has also spent many hours working with the BLS Bike Team at special events since 2014, or as Jonny affectionately refers to it, the “Debit Day Replacement Program.”

Jonny will tell you that some of the best memories over the years with his Station 17 family were spent competing, playing Wallyball, Station 17 Olympics, Pickleball and “Ripstick/Squash/Hockey… or Squocky” (because Basketball was too ‘Dangerous’ ). After dinner Card Games with Jay Babcock, Lt. Crothers, Lt. (Capt.) Flanagan, Lauren Heitman and Tanner Steffan. Drilling on the waterfront, having late-night conversations between Frat party calls, and many pre-Christmas nights helping me wrap last minute gifts for my family. Scott Houle often depended on Jon to taste the seasoned “raw” hamburger to see if it tasted good before being cooked for the rest of us. His early-in-life onset “Gray Fox” hairstyle earned him unsolicited Senior Discounts at Safeway (at age 45) that FF Murray (now BC Murray) encouraged him to embrace, as well as extra special Hot Cocoas with whip cream and sprinkles at the Muddy Cup. There were also many long running practical jokes that were never discovered, and some I am sure he will enjoy disclosing as he leaves work for a final time… Darrin Burchak, sorry, you were one of his favorite players….and you never knew…

Jon has had so many great co-workers, mentors and friends. He spent a large bulk of his years as a Driver with RC 72 classmate Lt. Brian Cummings (Ret. Capt.), who helped him develop as the informal leader the Engine Driver needs to be. Over the years there have been too many Drivers, Tailboarders and Officers to name, but he always found value and grew with each of these relationships. During my time at the Training Division, I was fortunate to hear on numerous occasions how Jon was one of the most helpful, dependable, and conscientious Drivers on the fireground. His arrival on scene and his presence gave Chiefs and Company Officers a great sense of ease that any Driver operation was going to be taken care of on the fireground.

Jon has stated he has dedicated his career to retired FF Bill Crews, who helped him through some tough early times, and without whom he wouldn’t have had this great career. He was his mentor and friend.

Jon loves to build real relationships, and because of his huge heart, he can always be depended on to step in to help repair a conflict, even if he had nothing to do with it.

Most especially, Jon would like to acknowledge his kids Sydney and Joe, the greatest blessings of his life. He will be “spending his sunsets” with his wife, Kendal, his kids (and soon grandkids?), and stepson August, listening to his record collection (Michael Jackson or The Beatles?), collecting (and sipping) Bourbon, doing home and woodworking projects (don’t cut off your other thumb), and visiting friends and family across the nation (and a few trips to Portland for Pizza.)

I spent 20 amazing years of my career working with Jon at Station 17. He was truly a great, dependable friend, and without him to lean on, my time in the training division wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without his help! I consider Jon one of my best friends. He is leaving a great legacy not only at Station 17, but for the entire Seattle Fire Department.

Jonny will be hanging out at Station 17 this Saturday from noon till around 5 pm and will work his final shift on Tuesday, May 30th. Please stop by and wish Jon well as he enjoys a long, healthy retirement

-Josh Schaapveld

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