LIFESTYLELifeWhen Art Stands Next to Fire: Denny Kimball

When Art Stands Next to Fire: Denny Kimball

By: Stephen Baer

For Denny Kimball, his first love was always art. Growing up in Seattle, he remembers his mom hand-drawing houses for real estate flyers or spinning wool and he took a keen interest in her passions. Throughout high school and college, he took art classes and was even accepted into a graphic design course, but changed his ambitions to focus on a career in firefighting.

“Somewhere along the way, I had a conversation with someone that was a graphic artist and was given advice to not do “art” for a living,” Denny recalls. “I took the advice and working behind a desk at the time was teaching me that I needed to choose a different path. I needed to do something active.”

At the age of 25, Denny followed in his father and brother’s footsteps, both of whom were Seattle firefighters. He spent a dozen years on two downtown engine companies with the Technical Rescue Team where he learned the intricacies of rope rescues, dives, trenches, and confined spaces. After a close call on a dive accident, he began a new position at  Station 6, Ladder 3. “All I’ve ever wanted to do in the department is drive and after 26 years I finally got the job and have currently been the driver of Ladder 3 for the last 5 years,” says Denny. 

The beginning of his new position brought on a resurgence of his passion for art. After a few years in his new department, there was talk of amping up station morale with patches to be sewn on bunking coats and silkscreen printing for the department t-shirts. “It was easy for me to offer up doing the art,” says Denny. “Eventually the abilities became known and over the years the stations I’ve worked at got my skills for free…word gets around and I’ve done several patches for other departments and entities.” Denny’s high standards for firefighting and art are similar. His attention to detail and high expectations of the craft are rooted in his beliefs around his work ethic. A properly packed rope bag and high-quality thread work on a jacket demonstrate his unapologetic pursuit for perfection. 

Denny is eager to discuss his favorite art piece, which is his design for Firehouse Station 6, Ladder 3. Inspired by guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who used to live and attend school in the neighborhood, Denny figured that everyone was a fan of Hendrix and would be an easy sell to his crew. He met with Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s step-sister, who was very excited about the idea. After a year and a half of obtaining legal rights, he finally got the green light. “We’ve been wearing Jimi since 2015 and man, it never gets old being stopped on the street to be told how cool our patch is!” says Denny. 

As Denny approaches retirement after 31 years in the fire service, he is looking forward to pursuing acrylic painting again. He may not be standing next to fire anymore, but we still think Hendrix would approve of his burning desire for the arts. 

Photos by Stephen Baer

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