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‘Our go-to guy’

December 16, 2009|By Joseph Serna

After more than four decades with the Newport Beach Fire Department, Capt. Jerry Strom said that he feels it’s time to close the curtain on his accomplished career.

“In this job you go from a standstill to 110% in a second ... so the stand still part is going to be great,” he said. “It’s time to get out and get some fresh air.”

There will be plenty of fresh air where Strom, 66, and his wife, Cindy, are headed. The couple, married for 18 years, are planning to head up to Mammoth after Strom retires Friday. Strom said he’s going to do some fishing in Washington and Southwestern Canada, too.

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“I’ve never been a huge, hurry-to-get-anywhere guy outside of responding to [emergency] calls,” Strom said from the Corona del Mar fire station Wednesday morning, where his fellow firefighters awarded him a plaque for his dedication.

The easygoing Strom is only three weeks away from his 45th anniversary and said his first days after retirement will assuredly be a little tough.

“I’ll have mixed emotions, a little bit of separation anxiety,” he said, chuckling. “It doesn’t seem like I’m that old but when I look in the mirror. I’ve watched the younger guys come in, it kind of keeps me young.”

His wife said he still has the energy of the younger guys.

“He’ll be a spinning top!” his wife said, laughing. “There’s a lot on the to-do list ... we have one dog, but we’re getting another to keep him busy.”

While Strom will be looking for things to do, department officials said they’ll miss his invaluable, sage advice.

“He brings a lot of history. Jerry has gotten to see all the transitions of the fire business,” said Fire Chief Steve Lewis. “A lot of what you get is through experience. He’s probably been in every situation there is.”

Lewis added with a laugh, “And I’m going to miss him because he’s the only guy close to my age.”

“His focus was the community. Even on his days off he’d made time to teach the kids all about safety,” said Jennifer Schulz, the department’s community education coordinator. “We’ll miss his wisdom, knowledge, patience. He’s invaluable. There’s people in every job that’s a go-to. He’s our go-to guy.”

Strom said it’s the people that kept him there for nearly 45 years.

“My favorite part was looking forward to coming to work instead of dreading it,” he said.


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