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Deputy fire chief remembered for knowledge, compassion

Jerry Kainz, second from left, deputy fire chief for the Jamestown Fire Department, talks with Jim Reuther, Jamestown Fire Department chief, at a vehicle fire in 2009. Sun file photo / John M. Steiner

   Fire and other local officials are remembering the city’s deputy fire chief, Gerald “Jerry” Kainz, who died Monday at Jamestown Regional Medical Center.

Kainz, 70, was a 46-year veteran of the Jamestown Fire Department.

Jamestown Fire Chief James Reuther said Kainz was sworn in as a member of the fire department on May 27, 1968.

“May 27 turned out to be a very important day for Jerry, as that was the same day he married his wife, Nadine,” Reuther said.

Reuther said Kainz was an “amazing” guy due to his depth and width of knowledge and his calm demeanor.

“Jerry was a guy … he was always happy,” he said. “I never saw him upset.”

When it came to fighting fires, Reuther said Kainz not only did his job, he made sure everyone else — firefighters and people impacted by the fire — was taken care of at the fire scene.

“He made sure everyone was all right,” he said.

Since he retired from Jamestown Hospital (now Jamestown Regional Medical Center), where he worked in the maintenance department, Kainz had spent a lot of time at the fire station on 2nd Avenue Northwest because he enjoyed being there, Reuther said.

“It’s a big hole for us, losing Jerry,” Reuther said.

Kainz and his wife liked to travel, Reuther said, especially to see their only child, Chad, and his family out in California. He said they enjoyed going on “mystery” bus trips offered through one of the local financial institutions. Reuther said the key to the trip was the people on the tour weren’t supposed to tell anyone else where they went, so the mystery wasn’t ruined for other people.

“Jerry took that very serious,” Reuther said. “He and Nadine, they just loved those trips.”

Reuther said he will miss Kainz for many reasons.

“I only wish I could have a quarter of his knowledge,” he said. “He was a very bright man, knowledgeable in many things.”

Dennis Barton, a fire department captain, said Kainz was always there to help people when they needed it.

“He was an exceptionally smart man and had a precise way about him, especially when describing things,” he said.

Barton said he remembered a fire call to one of the farms around Jamestown. He said it was at night and the firefighters weren’t sure what had happened.

Barton said Kainz was walking around the outside of the building slowly, looking at where the building touched the ground.

“He noticed a big hole by the front of the building at the bottom,” he said. “He (Kainz) said, ‘Don’t touch the building.’”

Turns out there had been some sort of problem with the underground electrical wiring to the building, and the whole building was electrified.

“Jerry, he looked at that hole in the building and put 2 and 2 together,” Barton said. “Anyone else would’ve looked past the hole and just walked right in.”

Kainz was the department’s “go-to guy” when it came to repairs to the fire station’s heating, cooling or mechanical systems. If there was a problem with any of those systems, Barton said Kainz would look at it, get the supplies and fix it.

“If you were to be stranded on the road with someone, he would be the guy (you’d want to be stranded with),” Barton said.

Barton and Reuther said Kainz was always willing to help out at the fire hall, no matter what was going on. He was at the department’s pancake fundraiser on Saturday and stayed after the event to help clean up.

“He would join in with the (fire department) apprentices in doing menial tasks. He wasn’t above (doing) anything at the fire station,” Barton said.

While the fire department was important to Kainz, he was also an avid photographer. A favorite subject of his was the fire department, but he also took photos of natural scenes and people.

Taylor Barnes, the Arts Center director, said Kainz always had an annual showing of his work at the Arts Center and was a “great volunteer.”

“He and Nadine helped organize items for us,” she said. “Jerry could look at systems and see how things went together and had practical advice on how to improve those systems.”

Eddy Funeral Home in Jamestown is handling the funeral arrangements.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454