50 years of service: Bill Dixson retires as Parshall Fire Captain
Selflessness, sacrifice, dedication; these are just a few of the words friends and former fellow firefighters use to describe longtime firefighter Bill Dixson. For 50 years the good people of Parshall were watched over by Dixson who largely oversaw the operation of the Parshall Fire Station by himself over his many years.
“The Parshall Fire Station would not exist without him,” said Tom Baumgarten, assistant fire chief with the Hot Sulphur Springs/Parshall Fire Protection District (HSS/PFPD. “For a long time he was the Parshall Fire department by himself.”
Baumgarten heaped praise on the retiring Dixson, whom he worked with for nearly six years.
“Bill has been working by himself over there for a long time. He’s very low key and will do anything in the world, as long as you don’t recognize him for it. But we told him you don’t have a choice this time. You have done too much not to recognize.”
Former HSS/PFPD Chief George Davis called Dixson, “Our man on the western front”; an homage to the reliability of Dixson in fighting fires in the perennially understaffed Parshall Fire Station.
“He has been the only guy from Parshall that stayed with the department over a long period of time,” Davis added. “We have had others come and go for various reasons, but Bill stayed. He made a commitment to his community, to his neighbors and friends.”
Davis highlighted how much volunteer work Dixson has done for the district, regularly servicing and maintaining the trucks he would use to battle blazes in the area.
Back in the day
The Parshall Fire Station is part of the HSS/PFPD. When Dixson started with the department, in 1965, the Parshall Fire Station had only a 1954 Dodge water pump truck previously owned by the Forest Service for fighting fires. The firefighters themselves did not have protective equipment either at that time.
“When I first started, back in ’65 the basic clothing was what ever we were wearing,” said Dixson. “And some rain coats.”
He chuckled at the thought. Since then the Parshall Fire Station has acquired a 1,000 gallon tank truck and a 750 gallon tank truck. Parshall has no fire hydrants within the town and all fire fighting is done via pump trucks. Dixson remembered battling the Parshall General Store blaze several years ago. “We went through about 200,000 gallons of water,” he said. “All being trucked in from Sulphur, Granby, Kremmling and from (County) Road and Bridge.”
During his five decades fighting fires in Grand County Dixson experienced several harrowing encounters.
“Pretty much all fires are scary to me,” said Dixon. “You have to respect fire and not let it get ahead of you to try and protect people and get them out of houses.”
He remembered two particular fires that stuck out in his mind.
“There was a shooting range fire about six years ago, by Byers Canyon. People were actually shooting while we were trying to put the fire out,” said Dixson. “We had to call the Sheriff’s department to come and get them to quit shooting.”
Dixson remembered one of his fellow firefighters hearing a bullet whiz past his head in the confusion.
The Church’s Park fire near Fraser also stuck out in the veteran firefighters mind. “Every fire department in the county was fighting up above Fraser,” Dixson said. “That was pretty scary. We were surrounded by fire.”
Dixson was proud of the fact that during his time with the district they experienced no deaths and no serious injuries.
“As far as I know we never lost any fire fighters or had anyone seriously injured fighting fires. We’ve had minor burns and I myself ended up with heat stroke on a shooting range fire.”
Dixson spent most of his tenure with the HSS/PFPD as the Captain of Parshall. “He would never let himself go any higher,” said Baumgarten. “He felt being a Captain was where he needed to be; working with other firefighters.”
After five decades of service Bill isn’t done quite yet.
“I turned my pager in after I retired; but I can’t rally give it up. It’s kind of in your blood after 50 years.”
Dixson said he will continue to respond to local calls as a volunteer on an as-needed basis.
“I have too much to lose if I don’t go help them out,” he said.
Along with volunteering his experience with his old department Bill and his wife Carolyn are currently working to establish a new fire station in Parshall for the HSS/PFPD. The couple purchased and donated a facility to the department, though construction on the project is not completed. The facility previously used as the Parshall Fire Station was between 75 and 80 years old ,according to Dixson, and was a former County Road and Bridge building that was donated to the District.
Dixson said the old Parshall Fire Station is being torn down and contractors have informed him the new station’s concrete foundation should be poured by Aug. 1. He said that he hopes the building would be up a few weeks after the foundation is poured.
If you are interested in supporting the construction of the new Parshall Fire Station you can send donations to the Parshall Fire House Building Fund at the Bank of the West in Kremmling. If you have any questions about the project or are interested in how you can help contact the HSS/PFPD offices at 970-725-3414.
“I would like to thank all the young firefighters that help us now. We are getting too old for this stuff,” Dixson joked. “We would love for more young people to join up. You’re not going to get rich, but you might save someone’s life.”
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The Bureau of Land Management is planning prescribed burns in Grand County ahead of the fire season.