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Run for Life

Sat September 7, 2024 Porterville, CA 93257 US Directions

Jerry J. Swartzlander


Retired CALFIRE Battalion Chief Jerry J. Swartzlander passed away at the age of 86 on February 18, 2019, surrounded by his loving family. Jerry was born August 10, 1932, in Hanna, Oklahoma to Leander J. and Hazel T. Swartzlander. After spending his early childhood farming in Oklahoma, the family migrated to California settling in the Cutler area in 1942. Jerry attended school and did farm labor and in 1946 did snow removal work in Giant Forest. In 1950 Jerry started a career that would span 55 and half years, as a firefighter with the California Division of Forestry at Porterville Forest Fire Station. Realizing that he liked fighting fire Jerry promoted quickly to Fire Apparatus Engineer at Dinuba in 1951 until drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953. Jerry proudly served his country as a Combat Engineer with the 2nd Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis Washington. After receiving an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1955, Jerry returned to work for the California Division of Forestry as an Engineer and continued in this position until promoting to Fire Captain in 1959 at Visalia. It was during this time Jerry met the love of his life, Margie Sue Freeman, the couple were married on August 21, 1956, and enjoyed a loving partnership lasting until his passing.

In 1965 Jerry promoted to Battalion Chief in Avenal and held this position until transferring to Fountain Springs in 1966. Jerry spent the next thirty-three years in this position not only working but also raising a family. It was here that he met the late Bob Zimmerman and established a friendship that would last until Bob's passing, together the two would build the Ducor Fire station and develop the Volunteer Fire Department. On top of fighting fire locally and throughout California Jerry coordinated the building of the Poso and Pine Mountain fire stations and developed Volunteer Fire Companies in Johnsondale and Kennedy Meadows. In 1999 Jerry transferred back to where his career began at Porterville and was the Battalion Chief there until retiring on March 9, 2006.

Jerry enjoyed a rewarding career with CALFIRE that lasted fifty-five and half years making him the longest serving CALFIRE employee. Throughout his career, Jerry enjoyed the respect of his coworkers and had a reputation as an outstanding firefighter and competent leader. Jerry responded to a multitude of fires statewide and was often the Incident Commander on numerous local fires. Jerry was always willing to share his knowledge and experience with the younger firefighters leaving behind a legacy of firefighters that “hold the line” today.

As if fighting fires for over half a century wasn’t enough. Jerry took the time to raise a family, being active with 4H and school activities, and family vacations. Jerry was not only passionate about his career; he was devoted to his family; he was a loving husband, Dad, and Papa and doted on his granddaughters. Jerry loved to travel, mostly with his granddaughters, he was very interested in photography and loved to take pictures wherever he went. With his Peace Officer background he loved to target shoot and was always willing to go out and shoot a few rounds. The farm boy stayed with him his whole life as he could often be found either working on a tractor or driving one on his small ranch. Jerry was more than a firefighter, He was a Husband, Father, Papa, Brother, and Uncle. He had a winning smile and a warm heart; he could be stern if needed but balanced with a tender heart. His laughter was infectious, when he laughed everyone laughed. He was friendly and congenial to everyone he met.

Jerry is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margie: his daughter Julie (Gary) Hargis, son Kirk (Renae) Swartzlander: adoring granddaughters Aimee (Erik) Withrow, Stacy (Blake) Bartlett, and Jill (Doug) Pritchett, 6 loving great grand- children, brothers Philip Brown, Jack Swartzlander, Paul Swartzlander and sisters Wanda Arnold, and Linda Pesta.

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