Greg Coon was a hazardous materials specialist, who worked in Victorville

The passing of 31-year fire service veteran Greg Coon has left his family, friends and many members of the firefighting community in mourning.

Coon, 62, died at his home on June 29. He was cremated in his uniform for “his love of firefighters,” said Coon’s former colleague and friend, retired fire captain Peter Lawson.

In October, Coon told his family of firefighters that he had cancer and would begin treatment.

A memorial service for Coon is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 26 at Sunset Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary at 24000 Waalew Road in Apple Valley.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the California Firefighters Memorial at cpf.org or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at firehero.org.

Fallen firefighter and Haz-Mat specialist Greg Coon, center, flanked by his former fire service colleagues, left to right, Dale Priber, Mike Bier, Coon, Keith Petersen, Pete Lawson and Mike Mingee.  Coon will be recalled at a July 26 service in Apple Valley.

Coon’s legacy and passion

With the nickname “Coon Dog”, Coon’s fire department legacy includes serving as president of the Victorville Professional Firefighters Association, a long career as a hazmat specialist, and assisting in the establishment of the Victorville Fire Museum.

Until his retirement in 2016, Coon worked for the Victorville and San Bernardino County Fire Departments.

The VVFD was disbanded in 2008 when the City of Victorville contracted SBC Fire for fire, rescue, and EMS services.

In March 2019, the City of Victorville completed its transition from contract fire services provided by SBC Fire to a city-operated fire department.

Coon was also a part-time faculty member who taught fire technology at Victor Valley College.

Lawson told the Daily Press that in 1985 he and Coon were hired by the VVFD as paid call firefighters.

“I was hired as a firefighter and he was hired as an investigator,” Lawson said. “His passion turned to hazardous materials, and he was probably the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met in this area.”

Coon’s passion for the fire service and teaching was so strong that he started his own business, Firedog Training, where he trained people in the private sector in fire safety, Lawson said.

Coon was also a California State Fire Instructor and taught firefighters across the state. It has also certified over 10,000 responders in various levels of hazardous materials and confined space courses.

“Greg was a great friend, and he knew so much and was always eager to share his knowledge and experiences,” Lawson said. “I and Battalion Commander Richard Campos accompanied him to Cabo San Lucas to teach them about hazardous materials.”

Former fire chief Rudy Cabriales was very active in the Bombero program, designed for US firefighters to train volunteer firefighters in Mexico, Lawson said.

Condolences

Victorville Professional Firefighters, who represent VVFD members, took to social media Thursday to express their sadness at learning of Coon’s passing.

The VVPF said Coon will be greatly missed and their thoughts are with his wife, Marie, and their family.

Las Vegas City Firefighter Bill Caswell called Coon “a one-of-a-kind genuine person who is passionate about his craft”, representing what “brotherhood” is all about and truly caring about his fire family.

“He presented my father’s flag to me at the California Firefighters Memorial in 2009,” Caswell said. “We will miss him.

Captain Vance Caswell, who retired from VVFD, died of cancer in August 2005.

“Greg Coon was my supervisor when I worked at the Household Hazardous Waste Center,” Mark Crouch said. “He was a great supervisor, I loved his work ethic. He was a well-educated man.”

Crouch was honored to detail Coon’s new truck he recently purchased, adding that he made sure it was 110% to his satisfaction, he said.

The Barstow Fire Department said Coon was a lifetime member of the Hazardous Materials Response and Mitigation Team.

“Greg has spent many years teaching hazmat classes across the country,” Barstow Fire said. “He was always eager to pass on his knowledge, education and experience.”

Barstow Fire officials said they would like to send Coon’s immediate family, his Victorville Fire family and his SBC Fire family their deepest condolences at this tragic time. “Rest in paradise, sir!” »

Family, friends and many firefighters mourn the passing of Greg Coon, 62, of Apple Valley, a hazmat specialist whose 31-year career included work for the Victorville and County of San Bernardino.

Coon’s work, his 9/11 experience

During a 2006 interview, Coon cried as he recounted how the events of 9/11 inspired him to become a hazardous materials specialist.

On the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Coon attended the state funeral in Washington, D.C., and recalled seeing a little girl holding a picture of a man, possibly her father.

“I’ll never forget looking her in the eye,” Coon said. “I just started crying.”

Coon turned his emotion into action and became a hazardous materials specialist for the VVFD. His interview for the position was conducted while he was in Alabama taking another course in weapons of mass destruction.

For years, Coon’s name and photo appeared frequently in the Daily Press, such as a story in 2004 when he trained a VVFD Haz-Mat team to use the latest chemical agent detection equipment, funded through a grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security.

“We have to be prepared for the incident and be ready to react when the incident happens,” Coon told the Daily Press.

A Daily Press photo taken in 1998 shows Coon inspecting an abandoned house where bottles of urine, vials of blood and containers of used syringes were strewn about.

In the summer of 2007, Coon and his team were tasked with cleaning up 200 gallons of hydraulic fuel that spilled on D Street from Fourth Street past the Mojave Narrows Bridge leading into Apple Valley.

Coon, who believed the liquid came from a tractor-trailer, said: “There is no fire hazard and no health hazard. It’s more of a traffic hazard because it’s very slippery.

In 2012, Coon and his Haz-Mat team responded to an ammonia leak at the Dr Pepper Snapple bottling plant at Southern California Logistics Airport.

About 100 workers were evacuated from the plant after an alarm said ammonia was leaking into the air. No one was injured and firefighters stopped the leak, Coon said.

Victorville Fire Museum

“For me, Greg’s greatest accomplishment was running the Victorville Fire Museum,” Lawson said. “He’s pretty much responsible for collecting memorabilia from former members, collecting donations from businesses and people in the community, and reconstructing the history of the department since its inception.”

Coon was also the founder and curator of the Fire Museum, which opened in 2000 to honor the history of the VVFD, established in 1926.

Coon led a team of Victorville firefighters in transforming a vacant fire station into a museum, supported by a monetary donation from late community leader Doris Davies.

The Eight Street site, just south of D Street in Old Town Victorville, houses two antique fire engines, historic equipment, protective equipment and an extensive collection of old photographs, documents, certificates, journals and reports.

With its mission to educate the public about the importance of fire safety through the history of the fire department, the museum appeals to fire historians, fire enthusiasts, visiting firefighters and the general public .

The museum also houses one of Victorville’s first fire trucks, a 1930 Ahrens Fox. The truck is considered the finest fire truck of its time.

Coon’s favorite museum piece was a 1940s photograph of an unknown class tour.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1930s, 1940s, or even today,” Coon said, pointing to the photo of children wearing firefighter hats standing by a fire truck. “Kids love going to the fire station.”

fire dog training

Coon’s Firedog training offered firefighter courses via ZOOM as well as hands-on in-person instruction.

Some of the classes included Haz-Mat cold storage, which covered the appropriate safety measures to keep a facility safe in the event of an ammonia release.

The 8-hour Haz-Mat First Responder Awareness Course was designed to train fire prevention officers, safety inspectors and private industry responders to handle a hazardous substance release.

Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz can be reached at 760-951-6227 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz

Comments are closed.