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Saying Goodbye to a Fire Chief and Friend:

When Santa Monica Fire Chief Jim Hone retires at the end of this month, Santa Monica will have lost a true guardian of public safety. The 55-year-old Hone, who will wrap up a 30-year career with the department on January 29, unless asked to stay longer until his replacement is secured, says he can’t wait to spend more time with his wife of 24 years, Linda, who he met just one week before he started the Santa Monica Fire Academy in 1980.

“She was by herself for weeks at a time when I would go on disaster recovery missions,” Hone said. “I have so much to give back to her.”

And Hone is clearly the giving sort, as evidenced by his three decades of service to Santa Monica and beyond. Over the past three decades, Hone has climbed the ranks of the Santa Monica Fire Department, starting out as a firefighter/paramedic and ending up in the role of chief, a title he has carried for the past six years.

In 1984, Hone and other members of the department purchased equipment and conducted training for all Santa Monica Fire Department members to implement one of the first Urban Search and Rescue programs in Los Angeles County. Just four years later, Hone developed and established the Hazardous Materials Inspection and Response program for the city. In 1990, he developed and established the Santa Monica Fire Department Support Services Division to better coordinate disaster preparedness, response, and community safety training citywide. A disaster preparedness expert, Hone also authored the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) training course for city employees, schools and the community. He has responded to six federal disasters, including the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City, where he served as the Interior Operations Chief responsible for all rescue and recovery activities inside the building, and the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11, 2001.

“With every federal disaster I responded to over the years, I brought back disaster relief skills and knowledge to Santa Monica,” Hone said. “One thing I’m sure about, even though it’s not popular with everyone who lives here, is that the Santa Monica Airport will be an invaluable resource in the event of an earthquake or other disaster…moving supplies in and out of the city and storing emergency goods, those are benefits of our local airport.”

On the home front, Hone served as the Operations Section Chief in the Santa Monica Emergency Operations Center following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and at the 2003 Santa Monica Farmer’s Market multi-casualty car accident.

“As tragic as the incident at the Farmer’s Market was, it showed how effective we can be in this city at disaster relief,” Hone said.

More recently, Hone reactivated the Santa Monica Fire Communications Center in January 2009, after the center sat dormant for almost two years due to an agreement with the City of Los Angeles to dispatch from that city’s regional dispatch center.

“It looked good on paper to go with the Los Angeles dispatch center, but there were so many issues, particularly a lack of familiarity with our city. We tried it for almost two years and the city council supported us in moving back to Santa Monica. We now have eight dispatchers here as opposed to the one we had before we transitioned to Los Angeles. We also have updated equipment, so it’s a better dispatching center than we’ve ever had,” Hone said.

Looking to the future, Hone said he would like to see new storage space identified in the city for the fire department’s equipment, which is something he has pushed for during his entire time as chief. As it stands, trucks have to be stripped of all equipment every day because there is nowhere to store them with all the equipment attached. This means if there is an emergency, the trucks have to be equipped, which takes precious time. Hone would also like to see a new Fire Station One building, as the current facility is 56 years old.

Though he leaves the department with a wish-list, Hone feels happy with what he has achieved. So does Santa Monica Chief of Police Timothy Jackman.

“Jim has been a great colleague to work alongside,” Jackman said. “He is the epitome of a professional firefighter. He is particularly skilled as an Urban Search and Rescue operator and has been to the scene of some of the worst disasters in U.S. history. His energy and enthusiasm for his job is amazing. On a personal note, Jim and I are friends. He was invaluable in helping me acclimate to Santa Monica and he has been fun to work with in many capacities – particularly the Superbowlathon, where he is the clear individual standout bowler of the two of us…Jim’s decades of contributions to our community will not be forgotten.”

Santa Monica City Coucilmember Kevin McKeown said Hone “has served our community long and honorably.”

“Our top priority is the safety of our residents, and, with Chief Hone at the helm of our exemplary fire department, we never had to doubt that Santa Monicans were well-protected,” McKeown added. “Jim not only came up through the ranks of SMFD, but had a tragic family history of sacrifice for Santa Monica public safety: in 1996, SMFD lost Jim’s brother, Jack, to firefighting-related causes. While we wish Jim well in deserved retirement, we will miss him.”

If you’re wondering what Hone will be up to in the coming years, his plan is a simple one.

“Linda and I look forward to traveling through the United States, visiting with friends and eating in as many restaurants as possible along the way,” he said.

When asked what he’ll miss the most about the job, his answer was a two-word ode to his colleagues and friends: “The people.”

Chief Jim Hone’s retirement dinner will be held on March 4 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. Details will be released in the coming weeks.

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