January 11, 2011
Former city fire chief Dennis Baron dies
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland Fire Department Chief Dennis Baron salutes the judge’s stand as he leads his department in the fireman’s parade in this July 2004 file photo. Baron died Monday after retiring from the department in February.
Firefighters who served under past Cortland Fire Chief Dennis Baron are saddened he will not enjoy a retirement of many long years.
Baron, 63, died unexpectedly Monday morning.
He retired as chief in February 2010 after 23 years in the city fire department — and 43 years altogether in the fire service.
Fire Chief Chuck Glover said he regarded Baron as somewhat of a father figure, having joined the department several months after him.
“Unfortunately in this business, I see too many people who don’t get to enjoy their retirement days,” Glover said Monday. “That’s the unfortunate part of the business and we’ll miss him.”
Though the cause of the veteran fire chief’s death has not been disclosed, his health had reportedly been declining.
“We knew a couple weeks ago he was not well, because we were at the career chiefs’ meeting in McGraw and we heard (medics) dispatched to his house,” Glover said. “They took him up to St. Joseph’s hospital and he took a turn for the worse from there, so I’m assuming it was a complication from a number of medical issues.”
A funeral service for Baron is being planned. The date has not been finalized.
Baron followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, as well as some other family members, in joining the fire service, he said in a Cortland Standard interview last year.
Baron was 19 years old when he first climbed onto a fire truck with a department in Rockland County.
He at times referred to his firefighting experiences as “war stories.”
Cortland Fire Capt. Mike Ondrako, who also served with Baron during his 23 years in the department, said the former chief’s dedication to the fire service was second to none.
Serving as a firefighter was his life, Ondrako said.
“That’s what he wanted to do and he made it to the top spot.”
As a former firefighter’s union president, Ondrako said he also had a productive rapport with Baron working on various labor issues such as contract discussions.
Baron also understood the importance of his firefighters having the time to deal with their personal and family issues whenever they arose, Glover and Ondrako recalled.
“When it came to things like family and people’s personal lives, he was always very concerned about people’s family and firefighter’s health and safety,” Glover said.
“He’d step up and do a great job for his men ... by making accommodations for people when they needed it,” Ondrako added.
Being a firefighter meant that when somebody has a problem that calls for a firefighter, they expect the firefighter to come up with an answer and make a decision to prevent things from getting worse, Baron said in an interview last year.
“I never thought that the fire chief job was more important than the guy with the hose,” Baron said in February 2010.
“Both have a job to do, neither could operate without the other one.”
Baron is survived by his wife, Christine, and their daughter, Amanda, who lives in Cortland with her husband, David.
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