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Fire Chief Langdon celebrates more than 30 years of service
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS For a man whos racked up more than three decades as a firefighter, Lon Langdons recollections of his career in fire service are surprisingly short.
I got into it because I was interested in it, was all, said Langdon, who recalls joining Arlington Heights Fire District 21 in 1972. I didnt expect to stay in so long, but its been a lot of fun.
Langdon, whos now the fire chief of Arlington Heights, was honored by family, friends and fellow firefighters for his years in service at the Arlington Heights Fire Station Nov. 4. However, Langdon himself credited his fellow firefighters with contributing to his enjoyment of his job, before thanking the community as a whole for its support.
I havent decided when Ill quit yet, Langdon said. I think Ill stay in for a little bit longer. Ive learned a lot. Unless you have real good people to work with, you wont want to stay. Ive always had good people.
Langdon reflected on the changes in firefighting equipment that hes seen over the years, which have made his job more convenient, as well as the enduring difficulties of being a volunteer firefighter, such as going to work after sleepless nights.
Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson joined Langdons fellow firefighters in praising his years of service.
He came from a well-respected family, and hes acted with commitment toward the community, especially Arlington Heights, Larson said. Im proud to know him.
Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin expressed his gratitude to Langdon for the strength of the working relationship between the Arlington and Arlington Heights fire departments.
We work so closely together that its hard to tell us apart sometimes, Rankin said. Lon never refuses requests for help, and the relationship between our two departments should be a model for all fire service agencies.
Lons got a good understanding of it all, said former Arlington Fire Chief Dean Olson Sr. Hes strong in his thoughts.
Oso Fire Chief Sandy Baker joined Larson in commending Langdons determination.
Hes got a real stubborn streak, Baker said. Hes persistent about the issues that matter to him, and hell work hard and fight for what he believes in. He sticks to it forever. Hes a generous person whos been good to the Oso Fire Department.
Darrington Fire Chief Denny Fenstermaker has only known Langdon for a year and a half, but hes already developed a positive impression of the man he deemed an institution within the community.
Lon was a big part of the drills we did recently in Darrington, Fenstermaker said. Hes helped me out a lot as a new chief. Hes always interested in doing the right thing, and with his experience, itd be hard to fill the hole if he left. When we talk about how to deal with things like flooding in this area, Lon actually remembers floods from 20 years ago.
Darlene and Roy Strotz echoed Olson and Bakers opinion of Langdons independent mind.
Hes not old-fashioned, but hes not one to just follow any new trend, said Darlene Strotz, who recently retired from the Arlington Fire Department.
Ive known him since he started out here, said Darlenes husband, Roy Strotz, who will soon be retiring as Silvana Fire Commissioner. Hes a low-key chief, but a good one. He gets the job done.
Chuck Pierce, a firefighter with District 21 who recently retired after nearly 33 years in service, lauded Langdon as a chief.
His knowledge and devotion makes him an excellent person to run our department, Pierce said. This is his life.
Hes really held this department together, said Chucks wife, Stacie Pierce. Weve never had turnover like the other departments. In fact, we have a wait list. We and the Langdons both started out here as young families, raising our kids together.
Langdons daughter, Michelle Alderson, recalled how much her familys lives have revolved around her fathers calling.
We always planned our trips around the weekly firefighter meetings, Alderson said. When the siren goes off, his feet literally dont even touch the floor, because he has his boots and all his other gear right beside his bed. Hes even got a button in his bedroom to open the garage door, since it only takes him seconds to get ready. Were wondering whether hes going to get called away today, because the running joke for years has been that every family holiday, whether its birthdays or Christmas, he gets called off.
Lons other daughter, Teresa Langdon, proudly pointed to the number of places where her father has gone out to fight fires, from Eastern Washington all the way down to California.
You wont find anyone more dedicated than dad, Teresa Langdon said. When he gets called during sporting events or other outings, we either go with him or get left behind. When hes on vacation, he calls me every day, just to see whats going on.
Lons wife, Gayle Langdon, noted that she and her husband only take vacations in October, after the end of fire season, and offered examples of how his fellow firefighters have become like a family to her family.
When the furniture warehouse burned down, Lon called me and had me order 35 Big Macs with fries from McDonalds, Gayle Langdon said. To deliver them to the firefighters, I had to coerce one of the police officers with one of the Big Macs. When the power went out last winter, the firefighters families came to the station to shower and share pot luck dinners. It was like our oasis in the storm.
Lon is a firefighter, hook, line and sinker, she added. Everything else in his life is secondary.