By Kelly Werthmann

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – When a firefighter’s life comes to an end, a solemn yet powerful Honor Watch tradition begins. South Metro Fire Rescue is in the midst of the longtime tradition as firefighters watch over their fallen brother, Chief Troy Jackson.

Troy Jackson (credit: South Metro Fire)

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“When a firefighter signs up for Honor Watch, there’s a lot of different motivations. One, they know the person that they’re watching over. Two, they know that it is part of our camaraderie,” Assistant Chief Jerry Rhodes explained, fighting back tears. “And sometimes it’s just to be part of a much bigger team.”

(credit: South Metro Fire)

Jackson, SMFR’s former Chief of Operations, passed away Monday morning from a rare, job-related cancer. Without hesitation, hundreds of firefighters signed up for his Honor Watch to ensure Jackson was never alone.

“The sign up filled up before I even had the opportunity to get my four-hour block,” Rhodes told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “It’s taking care of something that the family doesn’t have to worry about.”

(credit: South Metro Fire)

Since Jackson’s death, at least two firefighters have stood watch at the Crown Hill Mortuary. Each take shifts around the clock and will continue the 24/7 watch until Jackson’s funeral service.

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(credit: South Metro Fire)

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“From the time he left the hospital until the time he will get to the church, there will be somebody with him the entire time,” said Rhodes. “The importance of Honor Watch is never leaving your brother or sister behind.”

In the last week, Rhodes himself has watched over two fallen brothers. First, he stood for Summit County Firefighter Ken Jones who died while battling a fire at Copper Mountain. Now, Rhodes is taking time to watch over his late friend, Troy Jackson.

“It’s painful in the fact that we’ve lost two more firefighters,” Rhodes said tearfully. “But for any of us who are doing Honor Watch, there is no comparison to what the family feels, what they’re going through. We’re just doing our part.”

(credit: South Metro Fire)

SMFR will hold a full honors memorial service for Chief Jackson this Friday, December 20. The service is open to the public and begins at 11 a.m. at Denver First Church – 3800 E. Hampden Ave. An emergency vehicle procession will take place following the service, beginning around 1:20 p.m.

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Kelly Werthmann