Fire Marshal Steve Deffibaugh is retiring after 32 years and four months of service to Collin County, and this busy man has no plans to settle in any time soon.
Since 1996, Deffibaugh has been the county's fire marshal serving the county by working with volunteers, conducting fire prevention and safety classes, enforcing codes and acting as comic relief to school children who attend his safety sessions.
Throughout his career, Deffibaugh was called upon by several local law enforcement agencies because of his knowledge of the area.
Born in Borger, Texas, Deffibaugh graduated from Sherman High School in 1969, just in time to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War. He joined the Van Alstyne Police Department in 1973, and moved over to the McKinney Police the next summer, where he served four years. In 1978, Deffibaugh joined the Collin County Sheriff's Office as a deputy sheriff for another four years when he signed on as a criminal investigator for the Collin County Criminal District Attorney's Office. He spent 14 years in that office before being appointed the county's fire marshal, according to the county website.
And while he is officially retiring from the county, he can't quite kick up his heels. He will be acting as a volunteer for the Princeton Fire Department, a deacon at his church and a scout master.
Another job that seems to have been a lifelong calling will also occupy Deffibaugh's time.
During the 1950s a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico burned several hundreds of acres. The fire raged so badly that firefighters were called from all around, including firefighters from Fort Worth, to help extinguish the blaze.
While they were fighting the fire, they were caught in a firestorm. When the storm ceased, a small bear cub was wandering near the fire line. A forester took the bear cub home, treated its burns and nursed it back to health. The cub would soon be known as Smokey the Bear, the symbol of wildfire prevention, and a very special connection was made.
"That forester that kept the bear at his house was my great uncle, Homer C. Pickens," Deffibaugh said. "I've got original photographs and some original comic books of Smokey the Bear, and it just seemed like a natural thing to do."
As a result, Deffibaugh is seasonally employed with the Texas Forestry Service to help prevent wildfires in the area.
"I am going to be assigned to the fire prevention and mitigation division," he said. "I will be doing fire prevention in North Texas and will be speaking to schools, kids, public officials and whoever we need to reach to prevent wildfires."
With all of his commitments, he still managed to schedule some time for one of the most important parts of retirement - fishing.
"It has been a good ride," he said. "I am going to miss the service aspect. We have this winter weather and I used to do an awful lot with that in keeping our public and county officials aware of weather conditions, severe weather and road closures. But I will be doing a lot of fishing."
Jimmy Knipp, fire chief of the Branch Fire Department, has known Deffibaugh since for many years.
"He is going to be sorely missed," Knipp said. "He told me in an email this [Monday] that he has got his crappie hole set up and I told him I'd buy the minnows."