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Remembering Daryl George

Daryl George spoke proudly about his work during an interview with the Source in 2006. (Ananta Pancham photo)

I don’t think Daryl George’s cell phone number changed once in the more than two decades that I’ve known him. From the very first call when I was still a college intern at the Source covering the Junior Firefighters to the recent two weeks I spent looking for updates on the Bovoni landfill fire, all I had to say is, “Siri, call Daryl George,” and he’d pick up.

That first time I met him, I remember thinking – I’ve never met someone that could talk for days about what they do. But his passion always shone through, and eventually, those phone calls about stories sometimes lasted for up to an hour.

And there was never any, “on the record, off the record.” He said what happened, called it like it was, and when he wanted something edited, he’d just say – “well, maybe write it this way.”

It was like that one afternoon about a year ago when I called him about a possible fire hazard at a local hotel – the men living on the property were said to be working in unsafe conditions and he had decided to promptly drop what he was doing and drive me up there, just to check if everything was okay. It was – no cause for alarm – but he double checked all the fire features, the alarms and hydrants, and even went up there a few more times to ensure that this project wasn’t shut down.

We spent several more hours on the phone during that time trying to figure out the “why.” Why would someone make a false report, why would they make it seem like something was wrong when it wasn’t – and at the end, he just said, “Well, maybe it’s a good thing because now we can just really be sure everyone’s good.”

Ever the optimist, even up to the most recent battle – the Bovoni landfill – when he would just be astounded that it had rained all day and “not one drop” had fallen on the dump. After those long days I would see him at the convenience store up the street and he’d talk about the toll the weeks had had on his team, but he knew – was certain – that they’d pull through in the end, which they did.

At some point during those nights, I realized that he had become a friend that I looked up to, not just the voice on the phone, but the very real community servant that did what he did because he loved it and wanted to make a difference.

The last time I saw him at the store, he had come back from a funeral and I think I made an off-hand comment that maybe now that the landfill fire had been contained, he could just take some time off and get some sleep.

To which he responded again, “But can you believe we didn’t get a single drop of rain on that fire? Not a drop?”

The news of his passing is somehow unfathomable to me as it must be for his family, children and so many in our community.

In the first story I ever wrote about him, in 2006, he said, “I love the things I do. I love fighting fires. It’s like a rush for me. It’s always been my dream, and it will continue to be my dream until the day I die.”

We’ve been dealt so much loss these past two years in the territory, and among the most devastating is Daryl George. May we always remember him for the leader that he was and treasure the memories we have of him – I know I will, not only because of the phone calls that we’ve had, but because of the pride he had in his work and his love for his team, and the people around him.




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