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BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Fire Chief Leonard Howard has seen a lot of firefighters come and go, but saying goodbye to Jason Davis really hits home.

“Jason and I started out as junior firefighters on two different volunteer departments,” said Howard, noting that he and Davis graduated the same year, 1987, from Brattleboro Union High School. “We started out in two small towns at 14 years old, him in Dummerston and me in Putney, and watched each other progress through the career.”

Howard described Davis as “a firefighter’s firefighter.”

“At a drop of a hat, he’d help you do anything.”

Peter Lynch, a former Brattleboro firefighter and current assistant director of the town’s Department of Public Works, worked alongside Davis for many years, and also, as a cousin, shared a family tradition.

“His father got Jason into it,” said Lynch about his uncle, Phil Davis. “He got me into it, and he got Rick, Jason’s brother, into it. Uncle Phil really got a lot of people involved in the fire service.”

Jason Davis said the tradition goes even further back than that.

“It goes through generations,” he said on Friday, after his retirement ceremony. “Both my grandfathers, Ray Davis and Ray LePalme, were firefighters.”

Davis started at the Brattleboro Fire Department in 1999. Before that, he was a volunteer firefighter with the Dummerston Fire Department and also had an on-call fire position in Brattleboro. Shortly after he hired on in Brattleboro, he qualified as an EMT. Working his way up through the ranks, he eventually attained the rank of shift captain.

“The town of Brattleboro has changed a great deal over that time,” said Davis, a lifelong bachelor who still resides in Dummerston. “The people have changed, the stores have changed, housing ... the fire service changed. The call volume keeps going up.”

As an EMT, he and his squad responded to “a little bit of everything,” said Davis.

“We had some overdoses, but nothing like today.”

Throughout the years, said Lynch, Davis was able to maintain his compassion and his professionalism.

“24/7,” he said. “He never says no when it comes to an emergency or helping people that are in trouble. He puts everybody else’s life in front of his own in terms of his day to day work, his life and his response to emergencies.”

Lynch refers to his cousin by his nickname, “Junk.”

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“His original nickname was Junk Food,” said Lynch, which got shortened to Junk. “He’s never put on weight. Somebody said this morning during his retirement ceremony that Junk was the only person he knew who could live on coffee and muffins.”

Lynch said when it comes to emergency calls, his cousin has seen it all.

“I don’t think there are a whole lot of emergency situations that he hasn’t encountered. He remains very poised on the emergency ground, and makes very solid and timely decisions.”

Of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of calls Davis has responded to, two events really stand out — Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and the Wilder Building fire in 2004.

“The Wilder Building was an impressive fire. It was like a Hollywood movie. The upper windows blew out of that, blew glass right across the street. The old ladder truck ... we got rid of it, we were finding broken glass in that. It just showered down on it.”

Davis said he never set a date for retirement, and the only advice he ever got from other firefighters was: “You’ll know when it’s time.”

“But it never really clicked. A short time ago, I was talking with Marty Rancourt, who retired as a lieutenant here, and he looked at me with a big grin and he says, ‘You’ll know when it’s time.’ And it clicked. It finally made sense.”

Davis said he doesn’t have any plans for retirement right now, but he might take up an offer from fellow firefighter Helder Martins Ferreira, who originally hails from Portugal, for a grand tour of Europe.

“For now, I’ll take a few weeks off. Working on the house, mowing the lawn. I’ve got a ton of projects at home,” he said. “I’ve never taken more than three shifts off in a row. My whole career. I’ll see if I can make it three weeks.”

Davis said even though he knows it’s time to hang up his hat, he’s going to miss coming into the firehouse and seeing his fellow firefighters and sharing memories.

“You see so much stuff. You see a lot of funny stuff. You see a lot of tragic stuff. It’s been a great experience. It’s hard to walk away.”

“These guys now, they’re better than I am. They really are. The medical training has changed when I became an EMT compared to what it is now. They have more responsibilities now. So I feel like I’m playing catch up with them. They can handle it.”

Howard said Davis’ departure will leave “a void of experience,” but he’s confident Davis’ mentorship of younger firefighters will help fill that gap.

“I’m confident that us as leaders have prepared folks to step into that role. They’ve got a solid foundation to build from.”

Bob Audette can be contacted at