Rockdale,TX Class of 1965
James S. (Jim) Bland
James S. Jim Bland
Bland is the
most popular
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Bryan fire chief decides it's time to say goodbye
Bryan-College Station Eagle, May 14, 2002
Eagle Staff Writer

When Bryan Fire Chief Jim Bland was hired in 1968, firefighters rode “tailboard,” hanging on to the back of the truck speeding to a blaze.

Firefighters didn’t respond to medical calls and lifesaving technology wasn’t even on the drawing board.

The rescuers, without the advanced thermal imaging cameras now available, would arrive at a fire and carefully walk the perimeter of burning room, keeping one hand on the wall as they felt for victims with their opposite hand and foot.

“When I was a firefighter, we used the back of [our] ears to tell us when we were in too far,” Bland recalled Monday, the day he announced he will retire July 31 after 34 years of service, including 14 years as chief.

Bland said he and his wife recently made the decision after much prayer. It’s now time, he said, to step aside and let someone else take over. The 55-year-old said he plans to work as a consultant for the Texas Fire Chief’s Association.

To that task he will bring not only a bank of experience, but a sense of history.

He said he has watched the profession improve its protective gear and implement practical measures, such as making ambulance calls.

But many firefighters would say that throughout the years and the changes, there has been one constant: Bland.

“I know I’ll miss it,” he said. “That’s my second family up there. A person really doesn’t know what it’s like to be a firefighter and to enter a burning structure except someone who's done it.”

At 21, Bland became a firefighter, but only after first applying with the Bryan Police Department. No openings were posted and so Bland, determined to be a public servant, put in the paperwork at the Bryan Fire Department.

Within three days, he was on the job. He served as apparatus operator, driver, lieutenant, deputy and assistant chief before being named as chief in 1988.

The biggest challenge for Bland over the years easily remains holding the nozzle of the fire hose and “staring down an inferno,” he said, adding that during such times working together with the other firefighters is critical.

“It’s either: He’s going to whip the red stuff, red menace, or the fire’s going to push him out,” Bland said.

Bland said he is most proud of helping the department to transition from using basic emergency response to using advanced life support in 1988. Before the change, firefighters could only administer CPR and maintain a breathing airway, he said. With the switch, they were trained in defibrillation for cardiac patients and could start IVs to administer drugs.

It’s a change that has saved countless lives, he said.

He said he’s grateful for the mutual aid agreement that the city has with College Station and the good working relationship they enjoy with Texas A&M University, as well as its fire training school.

Bryan Assistant Fire Chief Mike Donoho, whose first boss was Bland, said his chief has been a “great leader who turned the department around.”

“If you ever cut him open, he’d bleed little BFDs all over the floor,” said Donoho, adding that Bland will be sorely missed. “I’ve never seen anybody that loved his career as much as he has.”

Although he will miss the department and its people, Bland said he feels he is leaving them in good hands, he said.

“The fire chief is only as good as his people,” he said. “We simply have the best in Bryan.”

Bryan City Manager Mary Kaye Moore said in a statement that she has not selected a plan to recruit a new chief.
Reception held for outgoing Bryan Fire Chief
Eagle Staff Writer
Bryan - College Station Eagle,  August 1, 2002

Outgoing Bryan Fire Chief Jim Bland advised fellow firefighters and city employees to keep the department moving forward even if the steps are small.

“You sometimes have to take a step and move up the ladder and see what you can do,” Bland told the more than 50 people who attended his retirement reception at the Bryan municipal building.

Bland retired from the department Wednesday, leaving a career that spanned more than three decades, including 14 years as chief. The 55-year-old said he plans to work as a consultant for the Texas Fire Chiefs Association.

But after 34 years, Bland had left his fingerprints on many projects and improvements, and his transition back to civilian life won’t be easy.

Interim Chief Mike Donoho ribbed Bland about his passion for listening to the fire department radio, adding that the chief frequently tuned in to the scanner in the evenings in case his firefighters were called to blaze and needed his help.

He joked about how the chief had refused to turn in his radio and pager until the last possible minute Wednesday, just in case his troops received a call. But Bland swore to his firefighters that when he turned the devices in he would quit “cold turkey.”

“I watched this man quit smoking,” Donoho said. “But I don’t think he can [quit listening to the radio.]”

To help Bland with his addiction, Donoho presented him with a radio patch — similar to the nicotine patch, Donoho said — that was to be worn for two months.

“When I hear the sirens, I’ll always wonder where they’re going,” a teary-eyed Bland said.

Other firefighters reminisced about jokes they had played on Bland, who is an avid Dallas Cowboys fan and weather watcher.

One Sunday when Bland was a shift commander, his coworkers unplugged the cable box just minutes before a Dallas Cowboys game was scheduled to start, throwing him into a tizzy, friends said. Firefighters also remembered placing cellophane over the top of the chief’s rain gauge — which he had installed at the station to check rainfall totals — during a rainstorm.

But despite the good-natured ribbing, Donoho said, the firefighters know that Bland’s absence will create a void. The chief could always be looked to for leadership, friendship and guidance, he said.

“We just want you to know from the bottoms of our hearts that we love you,” Donoho said.
Nolan Jessy Bland, Jr

Nolan was born June 21, 1943 in Rockdale, Texas to Nolan J. Bland Sr. and Leona Gest Bland. He returned to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on January 22, 2014, in his home surrounded by his family. He was preceded in death by his beloved parents. He is survived by his devoted wife and best friend of 46 years, Carrie Bland. They had four daughters, Donna Thomas & husband, Randy, Tammy Moss, Keitha Bland all of Brazoria and Robin Strickland, & husband, Shannon of West Columbia, a brother, James Bland of (withheld by request), 9 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. After serving in the U S Navy; he met and married Carrie, then moved to Clute, Tx in 1967. He began his career with Dow where he retired in 1997. He was a blessed member of First Baptist Church of Shady Acres for numerous years. He coached softball for 16 years and loved to garden, bowl, hunt and spend time with the guys on his lease sitting around the campfire eating and telling stories. But what he enjoyed the most was spending time and cooking with his family and sneaking the chocolate pie from his daughters. Visitation will be at Baker Funeral Home in Brazoria, Tx on Friday, January 24, 2014 from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Services will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm at Baker Funeral Home in Brazoria. Graveside services will be held afterwards at Brazoria Cemetery. In lieu of flowers please donate to IPH Home Health Care and & Hospice Care 135 E Hospital Dr Angleton,Texas 77515 or to Cancer Research.

Information removed upon request