As the first chief of the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention, John F. Lightbody retired from a job he helped create.
Before 1974, the township operated with a volunteer corps of fire inspectors. Lightbody was among residents who helped build the department up to one that inspected homes and investigated fires.
Lightbody retired as of June 30, and was honored with a proclamation at the Toms River Township Council meeting last week.
Lightbody has served 50 years in fire services, with over 37 years as the Chief of the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention. He announced his retirement as of June 30 after years of service and recognition, both nationally and within the State of New Jersey.
"My greatest memory is that it was a journey that I'll never forget," Lightbody said. "It's something that I feel that the Township needed and I'll never know the number of lives that were saved, because it's hard to figure that, but I know they're out there and the children and the adults and seniors that we protected by bringing smoke detectors into codes today and working on codes and standards that I intend to still work on to help the public and protect firefighters from the same dangers today."
Lightbody thanks the administrations that he has worked with from both "sides of the aisle" and especially his family for the support.
After beginning his career in the building trades in 1955, Chief Lightbody joined the East Dover Volunteer Fire Company in 1961. During his years at East Dover, he developed and chaired the formed Dover Township Fire Prevention Committee, which became the foundation for Toms River Township Bureau of Fire Prevention. He was elected as Dover Township Fire Commission from 1972-1973.
In 1974, Lightbody was named Dover Township Fire Prevention Bureau Chief Inspector and began as an adjunct instructor at Ocean County College in 1983 for fire and building courses.
Interim Chief James P. Mercready has served as Assistant Chief under Lightbody for 20 years. Mercready has known Lightbody and his family from the East Dover Fire Company where he had began fire prevention programs and has had the opportunity to work under Lightbody since 1991.
"I've gained a tremendous knowledge as he served as a mentor for guiding me and with him passing the torch off to me, I will turn the spirit of his mission alive in the bureau," Mercready said. "It's hard to single out one memorable event. It's his passion for fire prevention and life safety 24/7. He's a believe in the codes and effective enforcement of the codes."
John H. Lightbody, his son, said that his father's dedication and commitment to his position was reflected in the accomplishments he's made throughout the years.
"One thing that is immeasurable is the lives that he was able to save and the property damage that he was able to reduce through his efforts in fire prevention services," Lightbody said. "He still serves on multiple committees throughout the state, including the Fire Commission of New Jersey, and he was appointed to several committees by multi-party governors. That just shows you he was able to condition amongst party lines, as they recognized his knowledge."
His son said he was a driving force in many areas, including fire prevention and protection.
Lightbody said his greatest accomplishments were establishing a full-time Bureau of Fire Prevention from a volunteer base and decreasing the fire losses in Toms River.
"We decreased the premiums on insurance by having a Bureau of Fire Prevention and education and working on the water system, which at that time needed a lot of work," Lightbody said. "In addition, we also established a good water supply that is now going throughout the Township although it still needs more work. We have good rapport with the Toms River water company to conduct this and get water to the areas that are needed."
Lightbody was also proud of maintaining a full volunteer fire department of 300 plus volunteer firefighters for this community, he said.
Lightbody has served on the NJ State Fire Commission representing the League of Municipalities since 1999 and has been an active member since 1985 on the NJ Code Advisory Council. He also serves on the NJ Right to Know Advisory Council, the International Building and Fire Code Advisory Council, and is on the Board of Directors for the Salvation Army in Toms River.
He received a fire science certificate from Ocean County College in 1979, an adjunct instructor certificate from Trenton State College in 1981, and certificates in arson and fire investigation from Rutgers University, the United State National Fire Academy, and completed seminars at various NJ state universities and colleges.
Lightbody's retirement party will be held on Thursday, August 11 at the Ramada Inn of Toms River at 2373 Rt. 9. There will be people from throughout Toms River, Ocean County and the entire State of NJ making presentations and celebrating his years of service.
For those interested in attending, contact the Bureau of Fire Prevention Office at (732) 240-5153. For those interesting in presenting, contact John H. Lightbody at (732) 606-2960.