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Chief of Roanoke County Fire & Rescue retires after 34 years

Roanoke, Virginia – After more than 30 years serving the community, Roanoke County’s Fire & Rescue chief is stepping down.

Chief Steve Simon announced his retirement Monday.

“It’ll be challenging for me to leave but I do think it’s a good time now,” Simon said.

Simon has spent 34 years as a first responder, mostly with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, and almost six years as chief.

Since starting as a paramedic/firefighter with the county in 1994, he’s seen a lot of change, including one of the biggest problems plaguing his department right now: staffing.

“It was predominantly a volunteer system but society has changed and less people choose to volunteer,” Simon said.

The staffing struggle has only gotten worse with COVID-19.

“A lot of people look at, ‘Wow, I could get a job where I could contract a disease that possibly could kill me and my family,’ so that’s a challenge now,” Simon said.

Addressing that staffing challenge is where some say Simon has shined the most.

“We’ve received a couple of SAFER grants that are federal grants to help with our staffing and so I think that’s helped tremendously and I think that’s been one of his biggest contributions,” said Brian Clingenpeel, community outreach coordinator for Roanoke County Fire & Rescue.

“I’m most proud of the people that I’ve worked with. They go above and beyond all the time the duty that is required of them,” Simon said.

Simon said his next step will be focused on the community, which is not much different from his last few decades. He said his career of service has been well worth it.

“Because most days, when you go home, you feel good about yourself, what you did, because you helped someone,” Simon said.

Simon will officially retire on March 1.

An interim chief will be named in the coming months as the search begins for a permanent replacement.

Gayle Gordon

As a college student, making an extra buck now and then was very important. I started as a part-time reporter since I was 19 yo, and I couldn’t believe it might become a long-time career. I'm happy to be part of the Virginian Tribune's team.

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