GREAT FALLS – Firefighters from around Montana came to Great Falls to remember and honor Jason Baker Tuesday.
The 45-year-old firefighter passed away last week after a two-year long battle with cancer.
“Brother Baker had a boisterous, happy laugh and he had this infectious smile that you can see up here that will truly be missed,” Ricky Walsh, IAFF 7th District Vice President, said.
Walsh got to know Jason from his time serving with the International Association of Fire Fighters.
They took trips around not only Montana but to New York to honor the firefighters lost on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Walsh said it was the car rides with Jason where they really got to know each other.
“He bragged about his family and he bragged about his children. Payton and Porter, he was so very proud of you and proud to be your dad,” Walsh said.
But on one trip back from Havre, they passed Jason’s hometown of Fort Benton. He started talking to Walsh about soulmates.
Jason met his soulmate in middle school. They were married for 23 years.
“Jill, that man loved you so much. He stated to me that he was the luckiest man for having you in his life,” Walsh said.
Walsh also talked about how Jason was a prankster and how he was a beautiful person both outside and in. He was a friend to anyone he met.
“This room is full of people who had admired and loved Jason Baker,” Chief Steve Hester, Great Falls Fire Rescue, said.
Jason’s firefighting career started with volunteering and he soon made a career of giving back. He joined Great Falls Fire Rescue in 2000 and was promoted to engineer in 2008.
“I personally got to know Jason when he continued to persevere even though he was sick,” Hester said. “I loved having coffee with him in the morning.”
Jason was highly involved in the IAFF Local 8 and Paul’s Holiday Wish. He carried a bucket of change during Fill the Boot and helped coordinate Coats for Kids.
Hester went on to say Jason made a big impression not only to firefighters but also in the community.
“Jason was one of those firefighters who understood community service. He was compassionate about helping people. Also, he cared very much for those he served with,” Hester said.
Due to his illness, Jason was forced to retire from Great Falls Fire Rescue in 2017.
The fire service brotherhood also honored Jason for his commitment to Great Falls.
“Jason is and will forever be a part of who we are. His story will continue to be written as we share the memories and the experiences we all had with him,” Assistant Chief Jeremy Jones, Great Falls Fire Rescue, said.
Jason’s work is not done yet.
The Baker family released a statement Tuesday evening saying they hope to continue Jason’s work to get legislation for firefighters in Montana:
“Our family is heartbroken. Jason was a loving and devoted husband, father, son, brother, and a loyal friend. We are forever grateful for the outpouring of support from the community, especially from our extended family in the fire department and emergency services. It is our hope that together we can finish Jason’s work to ensure the early detection of cancer, and other serious work-related health conditions, for future generations of firefighters. We believe that health and safety coverage in Montana will prevent this tragedy for other families. Jason will always be remembered for his courage and generosity in serving others.”