News: Funeral arrangements announced for departed veteran; fire official and lifesaver
Story by Joseph P Cirone
WASHINGTON – Firefighters throughout Naval District Washington (NDW) and in Stafford, Virginia continue to effectively respond to calls for fire, rescue and emergency medical services, following Friday’s sudden loss of Fire Battalion Chief John McDonald.
The viewing will take place on June 5 at the Covenant Funeral Home, 4801 Jefferson Davis Highway in Fredericksburg, Virginia from 4 – 7 p.m., according to firefighter Curt Alvis, president of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD).
A memorial service will take place on June 6 at the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, 1112 Garrisonville Road in Stafford, Virginia at 11:30 a.m., followed by internment at the Quantico National Cemetery at 2 p.m., Alvis said.
McDonald, 54, a Navy veteran, began his firefighting career in 1974, while still a teenager, as a volunteer with the SVFD.
McDonald, known to many people as “Johnny Mac,” continued his volunteer service until his death. He was a life member of the SVFD and served in many roles, including a term as its fire chief, during his 40 years of service there.
He also served the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department as a volunteer battalion chief, the training division chief and a member of a fire incident Safety Review Board, among other roles.
Before becoming a paid firefighter with NDW in July 1984, McDonald served four years in the U.S. Navy as a boatswain’s mate, most of which was aboard the destroyer USS Caron (DD-970), during which time he earned a sea service deployment award.
Upon learning of the loss, JBAB Commander Navy Capt. Frank Mays said, “Our sincere condolences go out to Chief McDonald’s family, friends and co-workers. He was a valuable asset at JBAB and served as an extremely competent incident commander for many of the emergencies here and on other nearby naval installations. His loss is sad and will certainly impact all of us. We will not soon forget his long and dedicated service and fellowship.”
Echoing Mays’ reflection of McDonald’s incident command competency, Alvis said, “Johnny was known for his smooth and calm incident command style that clearly communicated actions to be taken by firefighters at incidents.”
NDW Fire and Emergency Services Acting District Chief Jeff Williams said, “The loss of Chief McDonald is indescribable. His leadership, courage and camaraderie will be sorely missed, not only by this fire department, but by the larger Navy family.”
Alvis added, “We lost a giant of a man, a trusted friend, a mentor to many and a true fireman’s fireman.”
While he was very proud of his naval service, according to his NDW co-workers, it was his part in the saving of at least seven lives, while working at NDW that make his co-workers and family very proud of him, according to Williams. “He was also a lifesaver in his volunteer fire department work as well,” Williams said.
Alvis stated, “Johnny Mac touched hundreds; maybe even thousands of lives in the fire department over his 40 years of service as a volunteer and 30 years as a career fireman.” “It is nearly impossible to convey to what tremendous degree of dedication and excellence Johnny served this department,” he continued.
At NDW, McDonald served in various roles, well beyond that of a competent, well-liked and respected firefighter, including those involving training other firefighters and overseeing the maintenance of the NDW fire, rescue and emergency medical services fleet of vehicles and equipment.
“This is a tremendous loss of a friend, a former union leader and a well-respected chief. This union is eternally grateful for his service and fraternal brotherhood,” said Gregory Russell, president of the International Association of Firefighters National Capital Federal Firefighters Local F-121, which represents NDW firefighters.
McDonald is survived by his wife and two children.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. We pledge our unwavering support during this time and beyond,” Alvis said.
“We owe his family a huge debt of gratitude for sharing Johnny with us for 40 of his 54 years on this earth,” Alvis stated.
Directing his comments to McDonald’s family, Alvis stated, “He missed dinners, picnics, school events and quality time with you in order to serve the community. For that, we truly thank you.”
McDonald’s brother, David, is also a life member and a past fire chief at SVFD. “Together, their blood brotherhood cultivated the fire department’s brotherhood, with both of them mentoring many of the young members,” Alvis recalled.
Referencing SVFD’s designation as Stafford County’s Fire Company 2, Alvis said, “During Johnny’s tenure as fire chief, the term ‘Dedicated 2 Excellence’ was created as the gold standard by which the department was to live by, reflecting his dedication to excellence.”
“That excellence showed in how Johnny trained firemen, managed emergency incidents and carried himself as a chief fire officer at all times. He expected the best out of his firemen and was not shy in letting you know it. His legacy lives on and will never be lived down,” Alvis concluded.