Stephen Jones, Bristol Bay Volunteer Fire Chief, dies Sunday at 54

Aug 1, 2017

A funeral service is being tentatively planned for Saturday for Bristol Bay fire chief Steve Jones. The fisherman, firefighter, and community leader collapsed and died suddenly Sunday afternoon.

Bristol Bay Borough Police say they were called to Jones' property Sunday afternoon. He was apparently having a dispute with workers from a nearby processor who were open burning some material.

The radio messages from the fire chief were “broken and incomplete” say police, who sent an officer to the scene.

Just seconds after that officer arrived and began talking to Jones, the 54-year-old collapsed.

Police and EMS tried CPR for an hour to no avail.

The community lost a friend and local leader, says Hilltop Christian Fellowship Church pastor Jeff Swanson. He served on the fire department with Jones for the past ten years.

"Steve was a family man," said Swanson. "Good family, quite a bit of his family lives here in Naknek. He’s also a set net fisherman up the beach here. Very involved in a lot of community things, on various boards, and has for many, many years been a volunteer fireman and in leadership roles with the fire department."

Jones’ sudden, unexpected death hit the volunteer fire department hard and left the community in quite a bit of shock Monday.

"There’s a sadness around the community," said pastor Swanson. "This being a prominent family in our community and a friend to an awful lot of people, very involved in our community … there’s a sadness and a real sense of loss today."

Jones was tapped for the role of volunteer fire chief in part because of his leadership skills and dedication to the duty. Volunteer firefighters respond to calls for service at all hours and in all weather.

Jones exemplified the character it takes to be ready to serve others, and perhaps do so by going into harm’s way, said Swanson.

"I would say so for, for sure. A man of character, of courage, and he’s a servant, wanted to serve his community. And you’re right, there’s a commitment there to be basically on call 24/7, for whatever might come, not only fire calls but also medical calls as well. Steve’s been on dozens or hundreds of those over these many years."

Authorities did not release a cause of death, but the medical examiner released the body to next of kin Sunday.

Steve Jones leaves behind a wife, four children, and a number of grandchildren.

A funeral service is tentatively planned for Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.