After more than 26 years in his “fantasy job,” John Klynman said farewell to his family at the North Bend Fire Department for the last time Saturday.
Klynman, an engineer at the department, concluded his final shift as dispatchers read these words.
“Attention North Bend. Paging North Bend Fire. We wish to thank and honor Engineer/Firefighter John Klynman for his 26 years of service with North Bend. We’re grateful and proud of your service and for having the pleasure of serving and working alongside you throughout the last 26 years. From all of us at the fire department and dispatch, enjoy your retirement. Time out at 8:01. June 5, 2021.”
And with that, Klynman stepped into retirement, with plans of spending more time with his wife and children.
While leaving Saturday morning was not too difficult for Klynman, he admitted to mixed emotions.
“Very surreal,” he said Friday in the middle of his final 24-hour shift. “I’m excited, but a little nervous. It’s going to be a little difficult walking out.”
Like many people, Klynman grew up dreaming of being a firefighter.
“When you’re a little kid, they bring the fire truck and you see all the valves, and it was pretty cool,” he said.
He got his first opportunity in California, where he worked for two years with forest service, primarily fighting wildfires.
After moving to North Bend, Klynman took a job at the Mill Casino when it first opened, but he still had a desire to be a firefighter. When he heard North Bend was looking for volunteer firefighters, he jumped at the opportunity. Three years later, he joined the force full time.
To this day, he said the volunteers continue to make a difference for North Bend.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the volunteers. They work 40-hour jobs and still do what we do.”
Early in his career, Klynman responded to a fire that many in North Bend and Coos Bay still remember. In 2002, Klynman was one of the first responders to a fire at Farwest Truck & Auto. Before the fire was out, three firefighters were killed in the blaze, and those who survived had to face the reality that their job is dangerous.
Klynman remembered trying to rescue one his fallen firefighters and seeing a wall of flames racing toward him. He still remembers that moment and the choices he had to make later.
“I had to look at myself and say, ‘do I really want to do this for the rest of my life,’” Klynman said. “You either move on or you quit. I chose to return.”
There were other big fires through the years like a blaze in an airport hangar in 2012, but Klynman said the reality for most firefighters is the job isn’t all about putting out fires.
“We don’t get a whole lot of structure fires,” he said. “In our city, we can get anywhere in three to five minutes, so there’s not too many big calls.”
Klynman said who firefighters do see a lot are medical calls, often to the same people, and accidents. The devastation firefighters see is something Klynman admits took a toll.
“It’s all exciting and great when you’re new,” he recalled. “But I’ve seen enough now.”
Klynman worked on C shift for the last eight years, spending an enormous amount of time with men he now calls family. Two members of the department have been with Klynman since day one, building relationships that will last forever.
“I’ve been working with these guys for 23-1/2 years,” he said. “It’s a family. We see all the kids grow up. It’s a weird thing. You see them when they’re 4 years old and all of a sudden they’re getting married.”
As he prepared to leave the fire department for the last time, Klynman said he enjoyed serving North Bend.
“It’s an awesome job, it’s like your fantasy job,” he said.
Klynman’s wife recently retired from her job, and Klynman joined her Saturday morning. After spending his entire life in the area, he is ready for something new.
“We’re moving to Arizona,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll find something interesting. It’s going to be fun just to explore. We’re just changing our whole lives.”