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Battalion Chief says goodbye after 31 years
Turlock City Fire Battalion Chief Les Austin is retiring from the department after 31 years of service. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal
After 31 years of fighting fires, responding to medical emergencies and in general, being there when he was needed most, Turlock City Fire Department  Les Austin is hanging up his fireman’s ax and retiring.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to have a career that has let me help people out when they needed it,” Austin said Monday during his final shift. What other job lets you do that.”
Austin started with the Turlock fire department in 1978, one of the last years that the city operated with one-manned engines.
“It could be a little scary in that station all alone,” Austin said. “There was no 911 at the time, so when a call came in, it came in directly to the station. I was from San Jose and was still trying to learn the layout of the town, so I’d have to ask for directions from the caller.
“When I was hired, I made one promise to the chief, ‘I will eventually get there and do something,’” Austin jokingly remembered. “Those were some pretty busy days back then.”
Austin proved himself to be a valuable asset for the fire department and worked his way up through the ranks.
Not only is Austin grateful to the fire department for a long and successful career, he credits it with introducing him to his wife, Nanette. He was a new hire with the department and she was a reporter for The Journal assigned to interview the new recruits. By the end of the interview Austin was smitten and asked her out on a date the following week. The couple, who reside in Turlock, have been married just under 30 years and have two daughters and one son.
Visiting each station on Monday, Austin said it was going to be the people that he would miss the most.
“This job isn’t just about putting out the fire,” Austin said. “It’s about taking care of the people.
“The people of Turlock City Fire have been an amazing group of individuals to work with. Their dedication is unparalleled. Without them it’s just a bunch of machinery and equipment. They make this department the success that it is.”
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.