After his lengthy and impactful stint as the SCFD fire chief, 50-year-old Mark Crawford is looking forward to "not being necessary," and "being the old man picking up trash at our new family business."
Mark Crawford used a little humor in confirming that he is retiring as the longtime fire chief of the Somervell County Fire Department.
"I am wanting to retire and look forward to being the old man picking up the trash at our new family business," Crawford stated, noting that he had turned in his retirement letter to Somervell County Judge Danny Chambers.
His first public mention of retirement came via Facebook on April 10. He turned in a letter to Somvervell County Judge Danny Chambers announcing his intentions on April 13.
"He’s done a great job," Chambers said. "He helped move the fire department forward, to get where they are today."
Chambers noted that the Somervell County Commissioners Court will have the task of choosing a new fire chief and fire marshal. No exact timeline has been set.
Steve Willis and Brian Jones are currently the SCFD’s assistant fire chiefs.
Under Crawford’s guidance, the SCFD earned the designation of Texas EMS Provider of the Year in 2016. Ninety-five percent of the department members are now EMS certified.
May 2 will be Crawford’s last day on the job as SCFD fire chief. He and his wife, Teena, opened their new enterprise, Dinosaur Valley RV Park, on Feb. 1.
"I am proud of our department and hope that under my leadership it has improved in its ability to protect our citizens during any crisis," Crawford said in an email to the Glen Rose Reporter. "I have been in public service my entire life and I am ready to grow a beard and relax. You are really never off duty as the fire chief. I have spent a lot of my time off dealing with issues and I look forward to not being necessary."
In addition to his duties as fire chief for the past 16 years, the 50-year-old Crawford has been the fire marshal for the city of Glen Rose and Somervell County since December 2016.
"I started with Burleson (fire department)," Crawford stated. "I also volunteered for Briaroaks VFD on the outskirts of Burleson for six years. I was a volunteer firefighter and a paid police officer (city of Kennedale, Johnson County elected constable), then I switched and became a paid firefighter and volunteer police officer."
Walter Maynard, who was Somervell County judge from 1999-2010, said, "We always had a great fire department, but he brought even more professionalism and training. Mark is just a good person. He was always easy to deal with."
John Curtis, who served for eight years as a Somervell County commissioner, said of Crawford, "I think he put people first. He was always concerned about having the proper gear, and training. He is just a good guy."
Crawford said, "I love Glen Rose and Somervell County. I think it is such a unique area and the people are very supportive of their emergency responders."
The Crawfords have a son, Trevor, who is a fourth-generation firefighter, and a daughter, Breanna Evatt, who is an elementary school teacher in Keene. Trevor, 24, is a firefighter in his father’s hometown, Burleson. Breanna previously had worked in Johnson County’s Emergency Management department.
Being involved in firefighting for so many years meant that Crawford came in contact not only with traumatic events, but he also experienced joy — such as helping deliver a baby — and he also mentioned the satisfaction of seeing junior firefighters advance through the fire service.
His worst memories include the 2007 drowning of Game Warden Ty Patterson, of course, along with "working fatality car wrecks when it is one of our youths."
The SCFD evolved from an all-volunteer department to having 21 full-time employees plus 21 volunteers under Crawford. His efforts helped in obtaining several hundred thousand dollars in grants, that was used for a new fire engine, three brush trucks, EMS equipment, insurance reimbursement, training, bunker gear and rescue equipment.
The updates have included replacement for a 30-year-old ladder truck, and purchasing a Hovercraft for rescue missions.
The insurance ratings for Glen Rose fire protection improved from 7 down to 2, "which is hardly seen in a small town," Crawford said.
Crawford created Training Division Fire Academy in Crowley, the largest fire and EMS training academy in North America. He ran it for 12 years before selling the business.
Crawford experienced a terrible accident that almost ended his career — and life — at a young age. The incident has been reported more than once in the past, but the impact it made on his life can’t be overstated.
As an 18-year-old firefighter for the city of Briaroaks, Crawford suffered third-degree burns over 37 percent of his body while battling a grass fire. Two other firefighters, Randal Goodwin and James Salzman, also suffered major injuries as a result of that fire. Both of Goodwin’s legs had to be amputated.
"I was the only one able to return to the job as a firefighter out of the three (of us)," Crawford noted.
A team of surgeons took more than 13 hours to treat Crawford’s wounds. Doctors told his parents that he likely would not survive. His pastor came into his hospital room and sprinkled him with water to baptize him.
"They didn’t think I was going to survive," Crawford said.
The trauma from that was life-altering, making him even more determined to continue with his firefighting career.
"It makes you care about people more, and makes you grow up real fast," Crawford said. "It makes you care about life, and makes you want to protect life."