Local fire captain calls it a career: ‘Best decision I ever made’

Ten years of volunteering with the Wishkah Fire Department, near his hometown of Aberdeen, told Jon Hillebrant all he needed to know.

He loved the fire service, so he joined up, never regretted it, never looked back.

“Joining the fire service was the best decision I ever made,” said Hillebrant, Fire Captain with the Valley Regional Fire Authority.

Hillebrant has brought his 25-year career with the Auburn Fire Department and VRFA to a close with a satisfied smile. Hillebrant said his family has always loved being part of the fire service, but they are excited to have more time to spend with him and to travel.

Colleagues will certainly miss him.

“There’s no question about Jon’s contributions during his firefighting career,” said VRFA Fire Chief Brad Thompson. “I witnessed it firsthand. His commitment to family, the VRFA, and our community have always been demonstrated through his actions. I feel fortunate to have worked alongside Jon and will always value how he treated others and his rock-steady work ethic.”

After Hillebrant completed a two-year program at South Puget Sound Community College, the Auburn Fire Department hired him in October 1997. Tour years later, the AFD promoted him to captain.

In the years that followed, Hillebrant took on many projects, beginning with his role in 1999 as a mapping coordinator. His coordination with city Geographic Information System (GIS) personnel led to a position as a fire department representative on the city of Auburn’s Addressing Committee.

He became a respiratory specialist in 2001 and was appointed to captain in charge of the program in 2016. He helped implement a complete overhaul of the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus during that time. Hillebrant was likewise a member of the ladder truck design committee and the uniform committee. He co-authored a manual for new hires titled “Approach to Excellence.”

Hillebrant was a member of the Honor Guard for 10 years, and was a supervisor for the Auburn COVID vaccination and testing site.

In 2006, he was selected by his peers as Firefighter of the Year and awarded a Medal of Merit for his life-saving actions during a storm in 2003, and received several letters of commendation.

Although his career accomplishments are many, Hillebrant said he is most proud of his community involvement. He served on the Auburn Good Ole’ Days Parade committee for more than 10 years and founded the “Honey Bucket Brigade” in 2000. He helped organize the fire vs. police chili cook-off for many years, raising funds for the Auburn Food Bank. He also volunteered his time for the “Fill the Boot” drive, Toys for Kids drive and Relay for Life.

“The fire station is like my second home, and my co-workers a second family. I will definitely miss it,” Hillebrant said.