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Black Forest Deputy Fire Chief retires after 32 years of community service

Posted at 3:54 PM, Feb 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-02 17:54:29-05

BLACK FOREST — Last week, Jim Rebitski retired from the Black Forest Fire Department, and to send him on his way, the department began a new tradition. A ceremony that included an honor guard retiring the flag flying over the firehouse and presenting it to him, and an emotional radio sign off. Ira Cronin was there and has the story.

Jim tells me, “I've always wanted to be in public safety since when I was in high school.”

That dream came true and 32 years later, that began with eighteen years with the Fountain Fire Department, and the last fourteen with Black Forest Fire and Rescue. Now, Jim is retiring as Deputy Chief.

“My time here with Black Forest has been tremendous. I've had the opportunity to work with great people, serve a great community, and serve a great county. I'm going to miss Black Forest, it's been a great home for me and a great second family.”

I first met Chief Rebitski in 2020, ahead of the SHIELD616 Border to Border ride. Black Forest was one of the department’s we were raising money for, to donate and outfit the entire department with rifle rated armor vests and helmets. Talking with Chief Rebitski then, he reminded me why even firefighters and EMS crews need life-saving ballistic gear. 

“People think all we do is fight fires, and there have been many scenes over the years where there has been an armed assailant in the residence while we are fighting the fire. I have been on scenes in my time here in Black Forest that we have had to post a watch because there was an armed person in the woods. I personally have been shot at back when I was on the ambulance.”

And being shot at, is just one of the many hard things Chief Rebitski has dealt with during his career.

“There have been some very bad things that I've had to deal with in my career, but as a firefighter it's part of the job. There have been sleepless nights and there have been a lot of shoulders that have been cried on. I thank my family so much for my career - because without them it would have been more difficult. They were my foundation. They were that guiding force whenever I felt I had the worst day of my life. They were there for me, and it kept me going and made me say, ‘You know what? Tomorrow's a better day,’”

And when the Chief looks back, it’s not the tough things that stick out.

“The good far outweighs the bad. All the lives I've saved, the lives I've influenced, the people that I've influenced and made a difference in their lives have made these 32 years a wonderful, wonderful career.”

His sendoff included a ceremony where he was presented with the flag flying over the firehouse by the honor guard, and a radio call out with El Paso County dispatch. 

Chief Rebitski called in, “Can you mark 701 clear quarters and off duty?” The dispatcher replied, “Chief 701, dispatch acknowledges Chief 701 has successfully completed his last work on behalf of the city of Fountain Fire Department, Black Forest Fire and Rescue and El Paso County. We thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the citizens and to the community. Thank you for your 32 years of faithful service, and I wish you all the best and good luck with your retirement. Godspeed and good luck. Time out 11:19.”

Jim told me later, “Most of the time when you hear that it's because we've lost a first responder. To be able to hear that, just saying I'm retiring, I'm off the air and saying thank you, it was nice, but again - sad.”

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