Edmond dispatch received a call in July 2013 about an explosion at Arcadia Lake’s Scissortail Campground.
When Edmond Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene they found a small smoldering fire inside an RV parked at a campsite. They found two victims with burns — a 35-year-old female and a 43-year-old male. No other campers in the area were injured.
Edmond’s hazmat unit responded to the scene as did personnel with the Edmond Police Department. Fire Maj. Gary Dill investigated the scene, gathering evidence both inside and outside of the RV.
At the time, Dill said evidence, which included statements from the two campers at the hospital, did not add up to a traditional propane explosion. It turned out three 20-ounce soda bottles were removed from the campsite. A method called “shake and bake” or the “one-pot method” is used to produce meth in a 2-liter soda bottle.
Dill said one of the rewards of this particular case is knowing that a person who potentially could have harmed someone else in a future explosion is off the streets and behind bars.
Friday afternoon, members of the Edmond Fire Department stopped by Fire Station 1 to congratulate Dill, who retired after serving the community for more than 30 years. During that time, Dill estimates, he investigated 500 fire scenes including the aforementioned case.
“It has been an incredible adventure,” Dill said about serving the community. “You get to meet so many people at their worst moment and nine times out of 10 you can make it better. I’ve seen a lot of tragedy that you couldn’t fix and it’s heartbreaking. But, man, when you make a difference, I can sleep at night real easy every time I do something like that.”
Dill said getting the firefighter job was kind of a fluke. His mother-in-law said Edmond was hiring and it might be an awesome job. Being a firefighter became much more personal for him.
“I love to serve others,” Dill said. “I love helping people.”
Edmond Fire Chief Jake Rhoades said the process is underway to refill the position, but given all Dill did for the department it will be hard to replace him. Rhoades said Dill’s work ethic was exemplary, and he completed all of his tasks whether they were large or small without complaining.
“He just got things done,” Rhoades said.
Dill received the Edmond Fire Department’s 2013 Steven W. Begley Distinguished Service Award, the equivalent of Firefighter of the Year. Firefighter Brad Powell nominated Dill for the award. In his nomination letter, Powell stated Dill has been an asset to the department in every position he has held.
“He has made an impression on countless people in our community from the infants who are riding in safer car seats, to young children going through our safety village, to conducting one-on-one counseling with teens who have been in trouble,” Powell stated.
Dill put in long hours to ensure the department has a successful citizens fire academy several times a year, and his personal sacrifices are the reason this program is successful, Powell stated.
Dill said his retirement plans include helping his parents, teaching at Oklahoma State University, which is building a certified fire investigator program, continue to work with Safe Kids Oklahoma on car seat safety, continue to serve as department chaplain and have some fun.
Gary and his wife Bobbie have two grown children.
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