Firefighter Larry Gene Wyant, age 67, of the Joes Volunteer Fire Department died on October 26, 2021, while fighting a wind-driven fire in a corn field.
Chief Chester M. Riley, age 56, of the Nucla Naturita Fire Protection District died on March 20, 2021, after suffering a heart attack while on the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
Air Tanker Pilot Marc T. Olson, age 59, of Colorado Fire Aviation died on November 16, 2021, in a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) crash while fighting the Kruger Rock Fire in Colorado.
Technician Jeffrey J. Billingsley, age 42, of the Denver Fire Department died after after responding to an emergency medical call on September 20, 2021.
Darcy was born and raised in Yuma, Colorado. He joined the fire department on April 18, 2012 and became captain on January 1, 2019. He died in a line-of-duty accident responding to a call on October 21, 2021, at the age of 34. Darcy’s firefighting calling came after The Heartstrong Fire of 2012. He was not yet on the department but volunteered by helping the farmers and firefighters combat this large grass fire. He always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served as a volunteer firefighter for 27 years. Darcy was not as easily able to become a fireman because of his dyslexia. He felt this would hold him back and limit his capabilities. With help from his fellow firefighters, he was able to become a first responder. Darcy took great pride in his accomplishments, despite his reading disability.
Not only was Darcy involved in the rescue aspect of firefighting, he loved anything fire related. He participated in the annual firemen’s races held during State Convention, which he looked forward to every year. He even attempted his hand at fireman’s dodgeball in Imperial, Nebraska. Darcy touched many lives through simple acts of kindness, from stepping up to be a partner or teammate of a new fireman to inspiring a younger generation to follow in his footsteps.
Darcy was known for his willingness to help others and his incredible work ethic. These attributes led to his numerous positions within the community, including County Fair Board vice president, volunteer fire captain, and a man anyone could call on for assistance. From a young age, Darcy was an entrepreneur with everything from candy vending machines and lawn mowing businesses to most recently running a successful rental business/tree moving operation. He did all of this while maintaining a full-time position as a diesel mechanic alongside his father in the family mechanic shop. Darcy took pride in all his accomplishments but was never boastful. He was a true service man to his community and everyone around him.
Darcy touched the lives of everyone he met, especially his family. He made it a priority to spend time with wife, Mickie; son, Owen (5); and daughter, Keiley (1). They took weekend trips to Denver to go to the zoo and museum. They also loved camping with his friends and extended family.
Darcy gave his all until the very end. He and his fellow firefighter spent his last day servicing all ten fire vehicles, and he died while responding to his last call.
Bud was a dedicated public servant for the Aurora Fire Department in Colorado for 31 years. Bud passed away after a battle with cancer which resulted from years of exposure while responding and mitigating thousands of calls for service. Bud was a consummate professional and highly respected as a person you wanted on an emergency scene. Bud’s command presence as a company officer, coupled with a pragmatic approach, ensured all calls for service would be mitigated effectively and efficiently.
After being honorably discharged from the United States Army and serving in Vietnam, Bud came back to Denver, Colorado, and answered an ad for the Aurora Fire Department. Bud was hired on May 1, 1973, and after spending years as a firefighter and chief’s driver, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1983. During his tenure as a lieutenant, he served on various truck and engine companies, serving the citizens and fellow firefighters. Toward the end of his career, Bud accepted a request to be the lead instructor at the Rocky Mountain Fire Academy to ensure newly hired firefighters gained his perspective and experience. The transference of his institutional and anecdotal knowledge to the next generation produced a legacy of competent firefighters for years to come. Bud truly loved the profession and consistently commented on how lucky he was to be an Aurora firefighter.
Bud was a staunch family man. He was a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. Bud enjoyed golfing, riding his Harley, and spending time at his cabin in Grand Lake, Colorado, with his wife, Cherry. Bud is loved and cherished by so many people that had the honor of knowing him. He will never be forgotten and always remembered as one of the “good guys.” The Hills family will honor Bud by continued progression through accomplishments, dedication, ethical and caring behavior, which has always been the foundation for his actions. Bud Hills will truly be missed by so many, but never forgotten.
Chris was 47 years old when he passed away from occupationally caused renal cell carcinoma on November 30, 2020. When Chris was diagnosed in September 2018, he was given two years to live. He fought so hard and made it two years and two months. He was a fighter to the very end. At the time Chris passed away, he was a medically retired fire captain and paramedic for Fort Carson Fire and Emergency Services. Before joining Fort Carson Fire, Chris was a police officer and a fire captain for the City of Fountain, where he grew up.
Chris significantly impacted the EMS, wildland, and hazmat programs at Fort Carson. He made sure that they were running well and that safety was of the utmost concern with each of the programs. It did not matter if Chris was on shift or off; he was available to answer questions about work. He wanted to make sure that his crews were given the appropriate knowledge and resources they needed to do their jobs well.
Throughout his almost 30 years with the fire service, Chris received several awards, including lifesaving awards and unit citations. His most recent lifesaving award came from a structure fire he was on with his crew. Chris was so humble that he did not want to be recognized for this action. He would always say that he is just “Joe the Fireman” and was not anything special. All his guys and gals would certainly beg to differ. He was SO special. He brought so much to the job. He was constantly teaching and was constantly keeping people laughing.
Chris was an avid hunter. He was also a talented woodworker and welder. He welded things that he and one of his coworkers thought were needed at the station houses or at the training center. They were always on the hunt for things to build to improve the stations for the guys and gals, and they both put in a lot of work for those improvements.
When Chris passed away, he and his wife, Dana, had been married for ten years. Chris and Dana had a beautiful blended family. Chris brought a daughter and a son to the family, Katelynn and Garrett; and Dana brought two daughters, Delaney and Riley (Cross). Besides his wife and four children, Chris was survived by his mother, Bonnie; his sister, Heather; her husband, Jeff; and their three daughters. Chris had a very large family, and he was survived by many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Chris was preceded in death by his father, Albert, as well as his grandparents.
Dan Moran was an amazing husband, dad, son, brother, and friend to many. He was born into a wonderful, close-knit family and later went on to have his own. Dan was an amazing husband to Jenn, his wife of 24 years, and dad to their two daughters, Taylor (24) and Madyson (21). Absolutely nothing was more important to Dan than his girls. If not at the firehouse, he enjoyed attending all his daughters’ activities. Anything his girls were involved in, he was involved in. Family was life to Dan.
Dan was a firefighter/paramedic with West Metro Fire Rescue for 18 years. He loved his career, every aspect of it—fighting fires, tending to a car accident or a patient with a health concern—he enjoyed it all. Any problem, whether considered big or small, he was there and treated it as big. He knew that, for whoever was involved, it was in fact big.
Unfortunately, a big day came for Dan. He was diagnosed with job-related leukemia in June 2017 and passed away in his home with family surrounding him on February 7, 2020. He fought a very tough battle for more than two-and-a-half years. During this time, Dan never complained and often said, “It could be worse.” In true Dan style, he never stopped joking, was positive, stayed strong, and was very encouraging to others. Dan was an inspiration to all, including the nurses and doctors who treated him.
Along with being a firefighter, Dan also owned a screen-printing business. He enjoyed the challenge of assisting customers with creating artwork for shirt designs and was proud of his finished product. Dan often did work for schools in our area. He liked that, while working a business to earn extra money for his family, he was in turn helping the schools earn money, as he gave back a percentage of the profits to the school. He really liked meeting new people through this business and treasured many of those relationships. Interacting with people was part of who he was.
Traveling to Australia as a foreign exchange student as a senior in high school was a highlight of Dan’s life. He lived in Sydney for six months with an amazing family. Friends were very special to Dan, and many of his closest friendships were the ones he created while abroad. Dan planned to take Jenn, Taylor, and Madyson to Australia. This had not yet happened, and now his three girls will be taking him to Australia.
George Martin Helfer had four true loves in his life: God, his adored wife of 63 years Rosemarie as well as his entire family, being a firefighter, and ping pong.
After high school, George spent two years active duty in the U.S. Army and an additional three years in the Army reserve before being honorably discharged and joining the Denver Fire Department. He described his career with Denver Fire as a firefighter and technician as “the best job that never seemed like a job” he ever had, and he loved every minute of it. He was a decorated hero for saving lives, a beloved coworker, and served his community with dignity and integrity. In his downtime, he proudly became one of the top ping pong players in competitions within the department. After his retirement, he continued his love of ping pong into his 80s and was honored as a gold medal winner one year in the Colorado Senior Olympic Games in doubles competition.
George was a lifelong Catholic and active in various parishes and volunteered within the Catholic Parochial School System and as a Knights of Columbus member. He also worked numerous side jobs to earn extra money as he and Rosemarie struggled (successfully!) to put all seven of their children through 12 years of Catholic school education. Along the way, George was an avid supporter of all of his children’s and grandchildren’s extracurricular activities, attending many sporting, theatrical, and musical events over six decades. A week prior to his death, though declining health confined him to the house, he adamantly wanted to attend a granddaughter’s Christmas concert nearly three hours from his home but was just too weak. We were, however, thrilled that he accomplished the goal he set when he was diagnosed with his final job-related cancer—to ensure he lived long enough to see his two newest great-grandchildren arrive safely into this world. Felicity Theresa and Keelan George both arrived before he passed.
George will be remembered for his laughter, his kindness, his fierce love of and faith in God, his wife and family, and his steadfast friendship and concern for others right to the end. He will also be remembered as a role model for being a man of his word, as well as standing up for what is moral and right, lessons that he gently passed on to everyone around him. In his honor, he asked that he be remembered by passing on a word of encouragement, performing a random act of kindness, or simply bringing a smile of love in God’s name into a world so in need of peace.
Kenneth J. “Ken” Jones was born October 9, 1973, in Denver, Colorado, and passed to the other side on December 7, 2019, in Copper Mountain, Colorado.
Ken leaves behind his wife, Keri, his son, Parker, and his daughter, Kalee.
Ken started his fire career as a volunteer for Frederick Area Fire Protection in 1998. Ken continued his fire career by joining Lake Dillon Fire Rescue in 2000. In his free time, Ken enjoyed the outdoors and spent many hours riding his bike, hiking, camping, skiing/snowboarding, and fishing. Ken spent as much time as he could with his family.
Ken was a quiet, humble guy who was patient, accommodating, and very devoted to the people he loved. Ken was a helper and a servant. He lived life with purpose, whether it was in how he communicated with that dry sense of humor and intentional conversation, or how he made sure his family knew he loved and cared for them. As a brother in blue stated, “Everything that you can think of that compassionate humans would do for their friends, family, and colleagues—Ken was that to all of us.”