CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Deputy Emergency Services Chief William Dubbs ended a 27-year career with the Chambersburg Fire Department.
Tomorrow morning he will start his new job as the borough's lead property maintenance code inspector. The 52-year-old Chambersburg resident decided in late September to take an early retirement offer with the fire department and change positions.
"It's a shame to see him go," said Theo Arndt, a volunteer firefighter with Cumberland Valley Hose Company. "Fire scenes won't be the same without him running command."
It will be the first time Dubbs has worked a regular 40-hour work week since 1985, and the first time he hasn't been an emergency responder since he was a teenage volunteer in Shippensburg.
"It'll be bittersweet," Dubbs said Tuesday. "It's been my life since I was 16."
Dubbs joined Chambersburg's department in February 1985 as an emergency medical technician. He ran with the ambulance about 14 years, then took a position driving fire trucks.
In 2001 he became the department's chief for a few years before taking a combined position as the assistant chief and fire code enforcement officer. About a year ago he was promoted to deputy chief and fire marshal.
"I'll miss digging in the fire scenes to try and find out what started the fire. I'll miss working with the Pennsylvania State Police fire marshals," Dubbs said. "I'll miss it all. It's been my life."
Friends gathered this afternoon to offer their well wishes during a retirement open house at the headquarters station. Also in attendance were his wife, their 16-year-old son and their 19-year-old daughter.
"With that many years, there are a lot of memories and heartfelt sorrow in saying good-bye," Emergency Services Chief William FitzGerald said. "But there is life after the fire department."
FitzGerald hugged Dubbs, becoming visibly emotional before presenting him with a commemorative plaque he made himself."It's been two years and one hell of a friendship," FitzGerald said . "I wish we could have had 12 more."
FitzGerald said he intends to designate one of his captains as the department's new fire code enforcement officer, but the deputy chief slot will not be filled. Borough Council recently voted to advertise a budget that will cut eight firefighters from the department.
Facing a major budget deficit, the borough offered early retirement incentives this fall to 15 employees and 14 of them accepted the offer.
Dubbs said he decided to take the offer while it was still an option after it became apparent that his position would likely be eliminated. Through his work with the fire code, he was already familiar with the property maintenance code he'll be using in his new job.
"The borough is lucky to have him and to keep him," FitzGerald said. "He's been an outstanding servant to the community and I'm sure that will continue in his new line of work."