Retiring Park City firefighter loved the job, the team
July 3, 2015
John Bovi has lived in Park City for 42 years and has been a member of the Park City Fire Department for 37 years. He retired this week and if there’s one word he uses more than any other to describe his time with the department, it’s "fun."
Bovi grew up in Montebello, California, "near the beach." When he was 25, he made a trip to the mountains and felt at home. "I had friends who lived out here," he said, "and I came out here to ski for a year, just one year, in 1974."
"I just kind of liked it and never went back. Like a lot of people, I guess," he said. "Being from California, with all the clubs, night clubs I just fit in [in Park City]."
Bovi soon thereafter became a volunteer with the fire department.
"There was really nothing here when I moved here. A volunteer fire department. Now we have seven stations," he said. "I think we have 90-some people with the fire department."
In 1982, he became an entrepreneur.
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"I started my own excavation company, John’s Backhoe Service," he said. "I did snow removal for the fire department when they had one station and then I kind of took it all over. Now, all seven stations have a plow."
Two years later, he started full-time at the fire department. For most of that time, around 30 years, he was an engineer — he worked on and drove the trucks.
"That’s the best job in the fire department," he said. "You get to take care of your crew, get them there safe, and then run the pump. It’s the best."
The most memorable fire, Bovi said, was the Silver King Coalition Building fire in 1982. "Flames 300 feet above the roof of the building," he recalled.
"About two weeks before the fire we did a preplan, we call it — we go check things out. We decided if that ever caught on fire that we would protect the [nearby] exposures," he said. "So I was across the street, I think there was a doctor’s office there, and it was burning the engine up and me and we just had to keep putting water on it. So we didn’t really fight it, we waited until it burned down and protected all exposures."
Bovi has a photo of that fire hanging in his home office.
"Dolly’s was a big one too. That was a pretty amazing fire," he said of the blaze that destroyed the bookstore in August 1992.
"I’ve been to a lot of Main Street fires," he said, noting that the area is much safer nowadays. "I think everything is sprinkled now. They re-did all the fire hydrants and we haven’t had a fire there for — well, knock on wood."
The Park City Fire Department has dealt with all manner of wildlife over the years.
"We got a monkey out of the telephone wires," Bovi said, as well as the stereotypical cats out of trees, and skunks in attics. "Every kind of animal you can think of, we’ve done something.
"Because, like they say, if you don’t know who to call, call the fire department, and we’re happy to do it," he said. "We don’t mind at all."
The best part of the job?
"I think all the fun," he said. "I just had fun all day. Guys joking around, I think that’s what it is. And then as soon as the alarm rings, you go into your save-people mode and it’s pretty cool. I always had fun."
The members of the department are a true team, Bovi said. Each of the seven current firehouses has a fire truck and an ambulance, and both vehicles respond to calls together.
"Sometime people say ‘Why did you bring the engine to this thing,’ and I say ‘Well, we’re a team.’ And we’re all EMTs, paramedics, so we all have our place, and we all work good together. It’s a really good fire department. I’ve never worked for anybody else, but everybody gets along and it’s been fun," he said.
Bovi said he made the decision to retire about a year ago, on a trip to Lake Havasu, on the border between California and Arizona. "I took some time off, 10 days, to work on the house, and I went outside and it was like 29 degrees and I called my friends in Havasu and I said ‘Hey can I use the house?’ They said fine, so when I got there it was like 80 degrees, and that’s when I decided."
"I’m a little emotional about it," he admitted, "but, it’s time to leave, ya know?
"I’m doing what I want to do. I came in with a great attitude, a big smile on my face, and I left with a great attitude and a big smile on my face," he said.
Retirement plans involve some travel.
"I’m going to do the same thing I do now: have fun, and more of it, is what I tell people." He plans to visit friends in Lake Havasu, in Michigan and in Mexico.
"Then I’m going to come back and work on the house for a little bit and then I’m going to leave again. I’m going to be gone definitely in the winter but next year I’ll probably hang — I love Park City in the summer. I absolutely love it. I just don’t like the winters anymore," he said.
Retirement party Sunday
There will be a retirement party this Sunday, July 5, for John Bovi and his friend and fellow Park City firefighter John Hanson, who retired a few months ago after 27 years with the department, at No Name Saloon, 447 Main Street. The party begins at 2 p.m. and everyone is invited to attend. "The more, the merrier," Bovi says.
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