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Paintsville firefighter helping remember W.R. Castle fireman who died in car crash

By: Hillary Thornton, Erika Glover, Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Hillary Thornton, Erika Glover, Tanner Hesterberg Email
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The old saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture in Johnson County means so much more. Last month, W.R. Castle Volunteer Firefighter Jason Blair died in a car crash.

A colleague wanted to show his respects so he snapped a photo that will forever hang with honor. Ray Reeder's action provides some comfort for those who knew Blair the best.

It has been a little more than a week since W.R. Castle Volunteer Fire Department laid one of their own to rest.

Friend and fellow firefighter, Michael Hamilton says,"It was one of the hardest things we've ever went through."

Giving him a rightly earned precessional with the help of various departments ... a moment of great heartache, a moment of honor.

Ray Reeder says, "It was basically his last ride, his last ride on that engine ... and I think he would be glad to know that that was his last ride."

A moment Reeder, a Paintsville Firefighter and photographer, captured and on Tuesday presented a framed copy to the station that now has one less member.

Hamilton says, "It brings back that last ride. Being able to do that one last thing for him, and as a fireman give him the respect he deserved and letting everyone in our community and county know that we are a family and we do take care of our own."

Hamilton was on that truck for the last ride and says this symbolizes exactly what the fire service and all other first responders stand for.

"We all serve our community, every one of them are all my brothers ... just like Jason was," says Hamilton.

Frefighters at W.R. Castle say the picture will hang proudly inside their station for many years to come.

Blair's wife was at the presentation Tuesday night. Hamilton and Reeder say the picture is another way of letting his family know they will cherish his memory and work to honor him every day.


A Johnson County firefighter who died in a car crash was laid to rest Sunday.

Jason Blair, 24, died Thursday in a crash on the Mountain Parkway in Magoffin County. He was a volunteer firefighter with the W.R. Castle Fire Department for more than seven years.

Folks gathered at the Johnson County Middle School gymnasium to pay their final respects.

"Anytime you're part of a fire department, you kind of have two families," said Blair's firend and fellow firefighter Jason Arms. "You've got your blood family and then your firefighter family. And anytime we lose one it's like losing a family member. It's very hard."

Blair leaves behind his wife, Jessica, and unborn daughter, Teagan. Jason and Jessica were married in April.

Peole who knew Blair told us he was a family man and dedicated firefighter.

"You could always depend on him to be there, no matter what time," W.R. Castle Fire Chief Paul Burchett said. "It says a lot for his family that he gave a lot of time, personal sacrifice and time."

"We'll carry on, but we'll never ever forget what Jason has done for the community and the department," Burchett said.

Nearly 30 fire trucks and EMS vehicles from different counties lined up along the highway in Paintsville as a tribute to Blair. His body was transported through the tribute atop W.R. Castle fire engine number one.

Dispatchers gave Blair a last call over the scanner before he was buried: "Rest easy brother, we'll take it from here. Dispatch clear."

Firefighters plan to retire Blair's number 321.

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Update: 6-20-14

The funeral arrangements have been set for Jason Blair.

His Visitation will be on Friday night from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m-9 p.m.

His funeral will be head at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, June 22, 2014 in the Johnson County Middle School Gymnasium.

Burial will follow in the Blair-VanHoose Cemetery in Nippa, Kentucky.

Arrangements are by the Phelps and Son Funeral Home of Paintsville.

The W.R. Castle Fire and Rescue Chief says 24-year-old Jason Blair died around six o’clock Thursday morning. Less than 15 hours later family and friends organized a candlelight vigil honoring his life in Wittensville.

In the parking lot of the W.R. Castle Memorial Elementary School those who knew 24-year-old Jason Blair share their memories. Less than 24 hours ago the firefighters gathered lost Blair in a car accident on the Mountain Parkway in Magoffin County.

Back at the W.R. Castle Fire Rescue station all of their gear is neatly organized in their cubbies, but now, one is empty.

Firefight Michael Hamilton told us, “He’s one of our children. That's what we everybody here is our kids and we've known him since he was a boy.”

Hamilton says Blair got married back in April. He and his wife were expecting their first child. Now, members of this community say they have a job to do. “We've got a baby to take care of. Every child that comes into this, it's a family. They're our kids. We will do everything we can to help raise that child and let it know how strong it's father was. How good of a fireman he was.”

A firefighter who many say was always helping others. Hamilton said, “If it was three in the morning he was one of the first people coming to get a truck to go help someone, if it was a fire or car wreck and he loved doing it.”

Jason Blair, firefighter number 321 is not going anywhere. Hamilton concluded, “It will always be there. It will be a number we respect. A number we look after. We know he'll always be watching us. When we're out there we'll always know 321 will be watching. He'll make sure we don't get hurt.”

As those gathered said goodbye to a husband, father, son, and friend.
Funeral arrangements are still pending, however we are told Phelps and Son Funeral Home in Paintsville will have more information soon.

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