Battalion Chief Jackie Clark’s retirement reception takes a solemn turn as he signs off duty for the last time. Above, Fire Chief Andrew Roughton gives a surprise gift to Clark.

Jackie Clark has seen a lot of positive changes in firefighting during his 41 years with WCFD

Bob Foos

On a two-way radio in front of dozens of fellow firefighters Tuesday, Jackie Clark signed off duty for the last time.

Clark, retiring as a battalion chief, recalled in an interview what it was like when he joined the Webb City Fire Department 41 years ago as a “tailboard” firefighter. He explained that tailboard firefighters jump on the back of a truck and hang on, often while putting on their gear. The good thing was that “when you get there you’re ready to go.”

Yet, he says “it’s so much nicer now” going to a fire in modern fire engines. “Everyone rides in the cab with headsets so we all know the situation when we arrive and can talk among ourselves – and be heard – to get a plan of attack.”

Another big change is automatic mutual aid. When there is a fire in Webb City, Joplin and Oronogo departments are automatically dispatched. And a Webb City crew is sent to aid them.

“911. Back in the day, we didn’t have that,” says Clark. “We’re actually on our way as the dispatcher continues to get details” from the caller.

“Departments used to be separate. Now they are kin,” says Clark. “We train with Joplin because we go to so many calls together.” That’s in addition to daily training at WCFD.

Staffing has also improved. “Back then, there were three firefighters on duty with one engine and three on mandatory call-in. Now, there are six personnel on duty and two engines plus call-ins.

Fire Chief Andrew Roughton presented Clark with several citations Tuesday during a reception and ceremony in the station’s bay area that was attended by dozens of former and current firefighters, city personnel and community members, and Clark’s family.

Clark is famous in the community for selling tickets for the chili contest and Badges & Burgers fundraisers that raise money for the United Way and Webb City CARES. He also received an award from the National Fire Safety Council for his promotion of National Fire Safety Week.

Clark said he is likely the last of the department’s 40-plus retirees. He was preceded by Billy Lundstrum, Steve Welch, who were in attendance, and Mark Metsker. Former Fire Chief Ernie Goad was also there.

“I’ll miss the brotherhood,” Clark said as he signed off. “The city’s been so good for us. It’s great.”

Clark was also recognized by City Council on April 22.