By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Woodbury Fire Chief Bill Johnston has announced his retirement after serving the city and Cannon County for more than three decades.
Johnston, 73, informed Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick of his decision Tuesday (May 27). He had served on the Woodbury Fire Department for 34 years and worked as its chief for 33.
“Age is going against me now,” Johnston said. “I’m slowing down a little bit and getting older. Everybody has to give it up at one time or another. It’s time for someone else to serve. I still enjoy it. I still have passion for it. The passion never goes away. I enjoyed my time immensely. What I have really enjoyed is helping people.”
Patrick said Johnston is to be commended for his years of service to Woodbury, in particular, and Cannon County, in general.
“Chief Johnston has been a dedicated fireman and fire chief,” Patrick said. “He has taken his job seriously. He has done a good job for us and the Town of Woodbury.”
Patrick has indicated his recommendation is for assistant fire chief Joe Loftus to serve as interim fire chief until a permanent chief is named.
“The interim may become chief. We are going to see how it works out and go from there,” Patrick said.
Johnston recently came under scrutiny for an accident that occurred during a fire call. A committee was formed to investigate the minor accident that transpired during a lawnmower fire on Pelham Road. Johnston allegedly had been involved in an accident during the call in which the department’s Incident Command Vehicle ran into a fire truck. Additionally, there was a female passenger in the vehicle.
Patrick said the female was not listed as a member of the Woodbury Fire Department. Johnston said she was a member but indicated her name had not been added to the list.
The committee was expected to report its findings to Patrick and offer resolution during the Town of Woodbury regular monthly meeting Tuesday (June 3).
“It is unfortunate the incident happened,” Patrick said. “It is what it is and Bill is doing the right thing by stepping down.”
Johnston said he is proud of improvements and gains made by the fire department in recent years.
“We have a new, bigger fire hall,” Johnston said. “Everything is doing our way. We have three good trucks. Things are in good shape.”
Johnston said he will continue to be involved with the fire department in a different capacity.
“I decided I would stay on awhile and assist with fires,” Johnston said. “I won’t completely go away. I have always enjoyed fighting fires and still do. I will be around and help (the fire department) in anyway possible.”