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These Fire & EMS divisions now have new leaders in Dawson County
Division Chiefs 2022
Johnny Irvin, left, and Don Patterson, right, have been named the new division chiefs for Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services' operations and EMS divisions. - photo by Julia Hansen

Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services recently hired new leaders for two of its five overall divisions. 

Prior DCFES employee and longtime firefighter Johnny Irvin has been named the Division Chief of Operations and Training, a position previously held by Jason Dooley.

Fire and EMS veteran Don Patterson was hired as the EMS division chief, filling the spot left by Robby Lee. 

Division Chiefs 2 2022
Johnny Irvin is Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services’ new Division Chief of Operations and Training. - photo by Julia Hansen

Johnny Irvin

Irvin’s passion for the fire service is what drew him to work as a first responder. 

“I grew up watching the TV show ‘Emergency’ many years ago and just got hooked on firefighting, and the passion just never left me,” Irvin said.

He began his tenure in 1986 as a basic firefighter with the Cornelia Fire Department, about an hour from Dawson County. 

He also became involved with the Georgia Fire Academy over the years, working his way up in that organization to become its Assistant Fire Chief of Operations. 

Several years ago, Irvin left his fire service roles for a period of time, but realizing his calling, he returned to the field upon being hired as a full-time firefighter/EMT at the local Station 7 on Dawson Forest Road West. 

When recertifying and taking additional courses, Irvin said he learned how the nature of first responder work has changed over the years, like with grants available for fire services.  

“A lot has changed with the way science has gotten involved with the fire service and the way we looked at fighting fires [before] versus how we do now,” Irvin added. 

Upon his hiring to Station 7, Irvin was quickly promoted to a lieutenant position. Then from there, he transferred to this division chief job. 

Irvin’s top goals as the operations division chief are to match Dawson County’s ongoing growth and development by boosting DCFES’s growth and to “continue to build the department to meet the needs of the community.”

He said he’s gotten to a stage where he just wants to pass on his professional knowledge to future generations.

“I feel like I can do that with the staff we have and just help this department grow with the knowledge I have,” Irvin added.

Irvin and his wife, Julie, are married with four children and seven grandchildren. After losing their 20-year-old son and college basketball athlete Clayton Martin due to a drowning accident in 2014, they started a foundation named in his honor. 

“We’ve utilized that [foundation] to assist families in need, especially during the Christmas holidays…giving gifts to families that can't purchase gifts. We [also] give them dinners and that kind of stuff.”

The Clayton Martin Foundation has also awarded scholarships to students graduating from Banks County Schools, where Clayton previously attended.

Division Chiefs 3 2022
Don Patterson has been hired as DCFES’ new division chief for emergency medical services. - photo by Julia Hansen

Don Patterson

Like others before him, Don Patterson was intrigued at the EMS role because the division’s reputation already preceded them. 

“I’ve always known the caliber of Dawson EMS…with the paramedics and the EMTs, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of that,” Patterson said. 

He explained that he was “blessed to find how the department was set up” in terms of its capabilities, such as being able to offer plasma to patients pre-hospital, which he called “massively important for trauma patients.”

“Dawson County is one of the few ground services in the state that carries plasma. Typically, you’ll see it on a helicopter,” Patterson said. “It makes sense because there’s no hospital inside the county and we take people to Cumming or Gainesville [for medical care].” 

Patterson began as a firefighter in Murray County, a little over an hour away. He graduated from the Dalton Vocational School of Health Occupations as a licensed practical nurse in 1994 and worked in ICU and ER units doing traveling assignments in the North Georgia mountains region.

Patterson became certified as a nationally-registered intermediate EMT in 2000 and five years later, he attended paramedic school at Tri-County Community College in Cherokee County, North Carolina. 

Then in 2007, he was hired as one of the first nine paramedics for the City of Milton, located in northern Fulton County. He became that agency’s EMS coordinator in 2014. 

Patterson has also worked as an instructor for Georgia’s Peace Officer and Standards Training Council, also known as P.O.S.T. and as a paramedic instructor coordinator through the state’s Department of Public Health (DPH). 

In 2020, he began working part time with Fannin County EMS. Patterson is married to his wife, Debra, and they have four children. 

Patterson would like to see greater local education efforts around automated external defibrillators or AEDs and CPR. To that end, he intends to work with DCFES’s community risk reduction personnel and local media outlets. 

“Early CPR and early defibrillation save lives,” Patterson said. “They most definitely save lives.”