CLARKSVILLE, IN (July 7, 2022) – Clarksville’s Deputy Fire Chief is celebrating a major milestone this week. As of Thursday, July 7th, Deputy Chief Dennis Johnson has served as a member of the CFD for 25 years.
The idea of becoming a firefighter came as Johnson was finishing up eight and a half years of service in the U.S. Navy. Having served in Operation Desert Storm with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Johnson needed to start over with a new career as a civilian.
“My wife at the time asked if I ever thought of becoming a fireman,” said Deputy Chief Johnson. “I said yeah, actually, one of my heroes is a Jeffersonville fireman, the late Dale Richardson, he was a family friend and I looked up to him.”
So in 1997, Johnson began his service as a Clarksville Firefighter. He started at the bottom, working his way up to become a crew sergeant, then later becoming Deputy Chief in 2015. After 25 years of service, Johnson says he has seen a lot of changes when it comes to firefighting techniques, technology, and even the firefighters themselves.
“When Chief and I got into the office six or seven years ago, we only had 30 something firefighters. Now we are at 46 and we are projected to grow over the next couple of years.”
Johnson says being a firefighter is the best job in the world, mainly because everyday is different. However, he says the most exciting part of the job is to help develop the next generation of firefighters. When asked what he wants his legacy to be when he eventually retires, Johnson says he would like to continue to improve the diversity within the department.
“Many people don’t know, but I was the first black person hired here,” said Johnson. “I want to hire as many minorities; Hispanic, black, women, as I can if we can get them to come out and try out and become a firefighter. I would like to see the fire department get more diversified in that aspect.”
Currently the department has three black firefighters on staff as well as one female firefighter, but Johnson says he hopes to improve on that even more.
“You know, its not done, nothing is done. We’ve still got to get this department ready for what Clarksville has planned. The Town is changing, so in the next five years Clarksville is going to be amazing.”