By Sean Dalton, WeLoveDexter content and community manager
Retired Dexter Area Fire Department Chief Loren Yates received a robust sendoff on July 11 at American Legion Post No. 557 in Dexter, at which dozens of his friends and now former colleagues joined in jubilant celebration of his long career.
“I want to thank all of you,” Yates said as he was handed his ceremonial bronzed firefighter’s ax with his name, the department’s insignia and his years of service (1999-2015) etched upon its head.
“It’s been a wonderful trip – it’s a hard time for me, because I love what I did,” but it wasn’t me … it’s all of you,” he added, giving credit to the many that worked directly under his command, as well as those who supported the department from the outside.
While the ceremony was kept short and nobody formally got up to give a speech to send Yates off, many of the people he has worked with inside and outside of the department were eager to speak highly of him.
“I have known Loren for probably close to 15 years now, and he’s just a phenomenal guy,” said DAFD Firefighter and head of the department’s union Ed Root.
“He has always been the boss, but he’s always been more than just the boss,” Root said. “He watches your back and always looks out for his guys.”
Chelsea Area Fire Authority Chief Jim Payeur sat with DAFD Interim Co-Fire Chief John Zahn eating and talking about Yates’ accomplishments.
“Loren’s been very active with the other chiefs in the area,” Payeur said. “He was instrumental in developing regional response between us and Dexter. He’s not only done good things for his community, but for the entire area.”
City Council Members Paul Cousins and Ray Tell, the chairman of the Dexter Area Fire Department’s Board, said that they will never forget Yates’ success in handling the March 15, 2012 tornado.
“The most interesting thing about Loren was the way he took charge during the tornado,” Tell said. “You can’t plan for that sort of thing, but he was able to clear every building by midnight that night. I know, because I stayed at the fire department until they came in and said that every building had been cleared, and then I walked home.”
Cousins echoed Tell: “What he and all the firefighters did was amazing … there were more accidents after the tornado than during the tornado — nobody went to the hospital that night.”
Yates thanked everyone in the community who supported Dexter’s fire department, before joking that he was now looking for a job and could use some help himself.
Someone suggested in jest he apply for a paid on-call position, to which he replied that he may be a little too old for that work now.
Yates said he plans on enjoying his life at a refurbished family farmhouse in Webster Township with his wife Zaidee, his grandson, Reed (who was by his grandfather’s side for most of the retirement ceremony) and the rest of his family.
“I have confidence in our firefighters, our board and our community that we will meet the challenges that are ahead — I have no doubt in my mind, Yates said.
For an in-depth profile on retired Dexter Area Fire Department Loren Yates, click here.