Eddie Saffell has hung up his helmet, having recently retired as Deputy Chief of Training and Education from Central Jackson County Fire Protection District (CJCFPD), after serving 30 years with the department.
Saffell started his career as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Harrisonville before serving 30 years with CJCFPD. Saffell began as a Fire Inspector, conducting investigations, inspections and providing public education.
His culminating role as Deputy Chief of Training and Education found him responsible for all internal training, the district’s paramedic program, and outside training for EMS.
The fire service and CJCFPD has changed quite a bit since Saffell began his career over 30 years ago.
“When I first started, we just grabbed the hose, ran in, and went to work on putting the fire out. Over the years, especially over the past 10-15 years, we really have to think about how we ventilate and having the incident commander control that, so we are doing it in a smart way,” Saffell said.
“We are doing more analysis and evaluation before we go into a fire, just to try to make it safer for our guys and do the best we can for the public.”
Saffell also notes that the majority of the department’s calls are EMS related and not fire-related calls.
“We’re not firefighters as much as we are masters of everything. We have to be paramedics/EMTs, public educators, as well as firefighters,” Saffell said.
The department has also been in a constant state of change throughout Saffell’s career.
“We went from basically volunteer with some full-time staff to fully paid almost overnight. Then in 1992, we hired another crew to take over the ambulance from Blue Springs. So, we’ve had growing pains almost the entire 30 years. We were always adding a station or adding a service,” Saffell said.
Saffell is grateful for the opportunity to serve in the department as long as he did, noting that “thirty years in one job is almost unheard of anymore.”
“I was able to go to school and earn three degrees. I was able to earn my paramedic license and other national recognitions, and all of it was geared toward making CJCFPD better. Being able to get to those recognitions and educational milestones was pretty special.”
“I was lucky enough to be promoted a few times. I went from driving the fire trucks to being a Captain on a truck, and then was promoted to Assistant Chief of our Fire Prevention Division before being promoted to Deputy Chief. Those promotions are always fun.”
“But, watching us add stations and our training facility was important as well. Every time we took a step, I felt like those of us who were there were part of being able to take that step.”
“I feel really lucky. I think I got to do everything personally and professionally I wanted to do.”
Nothing specific told Saffell it was time to retire, other than the desire to “let the younger guys come in and let them move the department forward”.
“The fire service is changing, and it really is a young person’s job. I put my time in and I helped grow and improve the department. It is time to let the younger guys come along and see what they can do with it,” Saffell said.
“I also preach to our paramedic students and the people we hire that the goal is make the CJCFPD and the fire service better than when you found it.”
As for his plans in retirement, Saffell is staying busy in the short term helping to homeschool his first grade grandchild.
“We have a six year old and five year old grandchild, and they keep us pretty busy,” Saffell said.
Saffell expressed his gratitude for the District residents of Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Lake Tapawingo for supporting the department, and in turn, his career.
“The community we serve is really the reason that CJCFPD is what it is. They allowed us to have anything that we asked for, and the reason they did was that they could trust that we would do what we promised we would do with the support they provided. The community was extremely supportive and I would like to thank them for being as supportive as they have been and for allowing us to give them the services they deserve and expect.”
“On a personal note, the reason I was able to achieve the educational and professional milestones I did was because they supported the District and the District supported us.
“I just wanted to say thank you to the communities for allowing me to serve them for as long as I have, and for being as supportive as they have been for everything we try to do.”
Saffell lives in Grain Valley with his wife Debbie and continues to serve the community as President of the Grain Valley School Board.