"The water pressure was unregulated, the infrastructure was in bad condition," Hall said. "The pipes were always breaking, the hydrants would break, the hose was from the '20s. We had no air packs."
Nine years later, he was elected by the firefighters to be the new chief when Phil Tovrea stepped down. When Hall's resignation becomes effective in May, it will mark his 20th year as chief.
Roger Davis, who has been with the Jerome Fire Department for 16 years, well remembers those early days when vehicles and equipment were literally museum pieces. He credits Hall's lobbying of the town council to get new vehicles and eventually the new station.
"Without his effort and dedication to the job, that would never have happened," he said. "He planned that for years."
"Once he had a goal in mind, he could figure out a way to make that happen," Eberle said. "He's a great inspiration."
While the station might be the most visible sign of Hall's tenure, Davis believes the chief's biggest legacy is the improved communication. That is within the department and between the JFD and other Valley fire departments.
"Other departments didn't think much of us then," Davis said. "But we attended years and years of meetings, and we get the same training as the professional departments now, and a lot of that was Dave.
"The other departments are willing to call us because they know they'll get a full crew of enthusiastic fire fighters."
Hall was a charter member of the Verde Valley Fire Chiefs Associations that formed back in 1987.
"He's just been a strong, strong personal supporter of that organization and the growth of the fire service in the Verde Valley," said Verde Rural Fire Chief Don Eberle, another charter member. "He'll definitely be missed at the fire chiefs level."
Phil Harbeson, fire chief of Camp Verde, has known Hall strictly through the VVFCA and recognizes the instrumental role the Jerome fire chief has played in getting professional training to his crew and gaining respect for the department.
Eberle said the relationship between fire departments in the Valley was "strained" back in 1986, but Hall was a key player in getting the level of cooperation that is obvious today.
Casson, who has known Hall more than seven years, calls Dave "Old Mr. Reliable." He said any time a Jerome crew was sent down to help with an incident, such as the Old Town theater fire, "they knew what they were doing. They had a very professional approach and conducted themselves with expertise and knowledge. Dave was a team leader up there."
The Jerome Fire Department now has three engines (not counting the two antiques that are now handled as antiques), 18 fire fighters on the roll, four people who work strictly EMS and two recruits gaining certification.
While Eberle points out that Hall is an "aggressive working fire chief" who rides in on the fire truck, Hall said he does not mind the administrative aspects of the job. There is paper work he can do at home on his own computer. There are also meetings, correspondence, politics and pension boards, among other things.
"I try to delegate as much as possible," he said.
Hall recently completed construction of a small store plaza across from the fire station and operates his Made In Jerome pottery shop there. He finds he cannot afford to close down the shop every time he gets called to the station. The department averages about a call a week. The business and his chief's duties also take time from his wife Susan and his family.
The oldest son Nathan attends Arizona State University while at home are Lyssa and Casey.
And it might be Hall's approach to all of his duties that has him spreading himself so thin.
"He's someone who put his whole heart into being the fire chief," said Jerome Mayor Jay Kinsella. "He didn't go about it halfway."
"He is a very trusted individual," Casson said. "If you asked Dave to help with something, you knew it would get done."
Hall was instrumental in the mutual aid agreement among the Valley fire services and worked to promote cooperation between departments. "That's the direction the Valley's going," Hall said.
Hall has melded into the community in his 29 years on the mountain. The unique sense of community and small-town quality of life have kept him there. He also finds it a good place to do what he does – pottery – and has built up a regular customer base.
It was his craft that first brought the Northern Arizona University student to Jerome in 1970 and brought him back in 1972. Pottery, he said, is also a very good balance to his activity with the fire department.
"Pottery is nice and relaxing, peaceful, enjoyable on that level. It's creative," he said. "That balances with the excitement and challenges of the fire department and dealing with politics and the administrative challenges."
Much of the fire fighting excitement has been part of the mutual aid effort. Fires in Jerome are not that common these days, but there have been memorable blazes. Hall might not be able to remember what year a building went up, but he remembers what time of the morning the call came in and intricate work involved.
When the building that now houses Rags to Riches caught fire in the 1970s, for instance, the call came in at 5 a.m. With flames shooting out the windows of the top floor, the fire fighters were able to save the house next door that was only four feet away.
Then there was the "fireball" that took Joan Kennedy's house at 6:30 in the morning. The department has also had to rescue people that have fallen off the mountain.
Hall knows giving up that excitement after all these years is going to be difficult. He's not sure what his role with the JFD will be but he wants to stay involved.
"He's leading by example," Davis said. "This is a very friendly department, we're close and we like helping Dave. We would do it anyway, but he's one of those people that you like to work with."
While the firefighters might miss his leadership, the other Verde Valley chiefs will miss his contributions to the association.
"Dave always able to bring to the table, regardless of the meeting structure or the form involved, a tremendous common sense approach," Eberle said. "He had an uncanny sense of when to interject himself to clear up the issue. He's a real bright spot in our meetings."
"I could confide in him and ask questions about how to keep emotions out of making good solid decisions out of what we do," Casson said. "I'm proud know him and call him a friend."
For the Jerome residents that have moved in since 1981, Hall is the only fire chief they've ever known in the town.
"Words can't express what Dave Hall has done for the town of Jerome," Kinsella said. "He's been able to bring them up to date and bring the town up to date with such a small budget."