A man stands in front of a Bangor fire department truck
Jason "Jake" Johnson will step down from his role as the Bangor Fire Department's public education officer after 26 years. Credit: Kathleen O'Brien / BDN

Jason “Jake” Johnson has felt like a rockstar every time he walks into a school to teach students about fire safety in his role as the Bangor Fire Department’s public education officer.

But those days of being known as “Firefighter Jake” by Bangor-area students will come to an end this week when he steps away from his role on Friday after 26 years in the position. He will begin his new job at a statewide public safety agency on Monday.

Johnson, originally from Unity, has worked in the Bangor Fire Department since November 1995. As the public education officer, he conducts evacuation drill evaluations for businesses and residential facilities; teaches CPR, first aid and fire extinguisher training; and travels to local schools to teach students about fire safety.

He said working with children is his favorite part of his job, but it wasn’t part of his original job description. When conducting children’s programs was added to his workload, he admitted he was “a little skeptical at first, but I fell in love with that part of the job.”

“They can be a lot of fun, but it can also be heartbreaking,” Johnson said. “Going into schools and interacting with students day-to-day, you start learning more about them and some of those kids really have a tough life.”

Sign up for The B-Side, a weekly inside look at what’s going on in the Bangor area

* indicates required
Yes! I want to get an email each week with Bangor area news, events, history, food and more

In addition to teaching young children, Johnson serves as a mentor for local high schoolers involved in programs with the department. He said he’s particularly proud of the high school students he mentored who now work alongside him in the fire department.

Although he regularly interacts with the community, Johnson said finding proof he has made a difference in the lives of others can be difficult.

“The guys on the line, when they go to a fire and they save a person, dog or a cat or save some property, they know right away they made a difference,” he said. “With my role, I can look at the numbers and see fire deaths or calls have gone down, but I can’t say that’s because of education.”

He remembers one instance in which, after watching a chaotic fire drill at an assisted living facility, he sent the organization a stern evaluation warning that if something didn’t change and an emergency happened, someone would get seriously hurt.

A year later, he returned to the facility for another evacuation drill evaluation and was pleasantly surprised to find “the best fire drill I’ve ever seen.” Seeing that transformation, he said, was “the best day of my career because I knew I made a difference.”  

“I’ve never been about achieving fame or fortune,” he said. “You pick a career because you feel like you’re changing the world for the better. Hopefully, just maybe, I helped make Bangor a little safer.”

Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...