Retired Chief Three Joseph Moriarty knew he wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little boy.
Moriarty’s family lived across the street from a vacant house where Jordan Fire would sometimes perform practice burns.
He would watch from a distance, “totally mesmerized.”
Seeing those firefighters in action planted a seed in his young imagination. Many of them his father’s age, the men of the department became sort of like role models to him.
“They always seemed larger than life,” Moriarty said.
Later on, on a drive down the highway, Moriarty and his brother passed a massive barn fire at a residence they knew. They pulled over to watch the department work to control the flames.
“I said to myself and my brother at the time, ‘I’m gonna be doing that someday,’” Moriarty said.
He asked a family friend in the department what it took to become a firefighter and what the training process was like.
“I always wanted to know what it was like on the inside,” said Moriarty. “He said, ‘It can get pretty hairy.’ And I was like, ‘Sign me up.’”
That was decades ago — now entering retirement fro m chasing blazes, Moriarty is reflecting on 26 years with the department.
Moriarty went into his career with Jordan Fire knowing it had the potential to be “hairy,” and he remembers a few close calls over the years.
He’s walked through burning buildings on the verge of collapse, thinking on his feet to protect the safety of an entire team.
He was on the job when the Cedar Ridge Arabian horse barn went up in flames, and reinforcements from Chaska had to be called in to put out the blaze.
Looking back on his years of service, Moriarty laughs at how inexperienced he was at first.
“The first fire I was so green,” Moriarty said. “I had my turnout gear, I had high waders, I looked totally dorky, looking back on it. But. . . the thing is, nobody was really trying to shame me away from anything. There I was, in the full experience.”
Though a certain amount of training could be done beforehand, much of the learning of how to be a firefighter is done on the job.
“What it boils down to is, that first call, you see lights and hear sirens, and you know you have a job,” said Moriarty.
Moriarty knew he was signing up for an element of danger with this job, but he could not have known the camaraderie he would find within the Jordan Fire Department, which unites firefighters from all sorts of backgrounds.
“Blue collar, white collar, doesn’t matter,” Moriarty said.
Regardless of what they do for a day job, when they’re on call, Jordan Fire feels like a brotherhood.
“When the pager goes off you’re all one team,” said Moriarty. “It’s like being on a football team in high school. Everybody comes from somewhere, and you’re on the team and you have one mission.”
He’s got high hopes for the future of the department, and knows he’s left it in good hands.
“A lot of people bang on millennials and everything else, but you can’t put them in a box — you just can’t,” Moriarty said. “All these guys, they show up, we’ve got guys that are young guys that are doing everything that we’re doing. So, I think our future is bright.”
Moriarty is a long way from retirement at his day job as a product manager.
After 26 rewarding years, though, Moriarty knew it was time to move on from his role with Jordan Fire and spend more time with his family.
He still remembers conversations he and his wife, Lisa, had before he joined the department.
“When I joined, she joined,” Moriarty said. “My wife has been a rock.”
He also has two adult children, who he’s excited to spend more time traveling with in the coming years.
“We’re trying to do a little bit more as everybody gets established to where, where they’re going to be, and so those are the things that I’m really focusing on for the future,” said Moriarty. “I still have lots of friends from the department and other places and that kind of thing. So just trying to reconnect with them as well.”
Leaving a legacy
Though his own first days with the department don’t seem that long ago, Moriarty knows the feeling of just starting out.
To those who are just starting out or want to be firefighters, his first advice is to “just take it all in.” After all, the best training is always done on the job.
Based on what he’s seen over the years, he also says it’s important to seek support when difficult or traumatic situations get to you.
“The macho days are over,” Moriarty said. “PTSD can ruin your life. It didn’t happen to me, but I’ve seen it happen. You need to be able to have the courage to say ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem, I need to talk about this.’”
He’s proud of how far the department has come in many ways — its response to mental health, its improvements in technology and its bolstered community partnerships over the years he’s been with JFD have astounded him.
However, he says, one thing will remain the same — JFD’s commitment to serving the people of Jordan.
“It’s the hottest day of the year, we’re still responding,” Moriarty said. “It doesn’t matter how cold or hot or what the circumstances are, we’re going to respond, and stand tall for the community.”
Though he won’t be on call 24/7 anymore, Moriarty says he’s still holding the connections from his years of service close.
“I’ll be thinking of you when I hear that federal siren screaming, having your best day on somebody’s worst,” Moriarty wrote.