Calera names Tommy Moon first full-time fire chief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 14, 2003

In the mid 1960s, Tommy Moon helped out where he could at his stepfather’s service station.

The Amoco on Highway 31 was located near the old city hall.

He’d pump gas, fix flat tires or whatever else needed to be done at the station owned by his stepfather, James Miles, who also served as chief of Calera’s volunteer fire department.

But his favorite task was walking over to city hall to sound the sirens when a call came in for the fire department.

Moon would push a button to sound the sirens, alerting Calera of a fire and signaling the beginning of a career in the firefighting service.

&uot;I would walk around and mash the button and then I would watch the trucks go out,&uot; Moon said. &uot;It just kind of grew on me from there.&uot;

Moon became Calera’s first full-time fire chief in January. The department had previously been all volunteer and part-time, with Moon serving as chief while also working as a fire lieutenant for the city of Alabaster.

He will head a staff of 23 full-time personnel at two stations including a full-time fire marshal.

&uot;We owe everything we have here at the fire department to the members of the council who have taken the steps to provide full-time services to the city of Calera,&uot; Moon said.

With the vast growth Calera has seen in recent years, the addition of industrial parks and increased call volume to city fire services, the city council recognized the need to make the switch from a volunteer fire department to a full-time department.

&uot;This is important for the city of Calera,&uot; Mayor George Roy said. &uot;This is a real good thing for the city.&uot;

Moon began working with the Calera department 27 years ago as a volunteer and was named acting chief some 15 years ago.

However, his duties with the Alabaster department limited his availability and his time.

&uot;I’d work a 24-hour shift (in Alabaster) and then come work an 8-10 hour shift here on my off days,&uot; Moon said. &uot;It was very time consuming.&uot;

He will now be available to devote himself fully to the city of Calera, which received 1,276 calls last year &045; a number he said is both substantial and growing.

More than 20 years ago, when Moon quit watching the fire trucks leave and started riding in them, Calera received less than a dozen calls a month.

While Moon said he is excited about the future of the department and his new role, he said leaving behind his coworkers in Alabaster will be a tough adjustment.

&uot;I worked there for 18 and a half years,&uot; he said. &uot;It will be kind of sad to leave those guys behind.&uot;

Working two jobs, however, made it difficult for Moon to spend as much time as he wanted with his wife and two children.

&uot;I feel like they are enjoying it better because I am home every night and on the weekends,&uot; Moon said. &uot;I have more time to spend with them now.&uot;

Calera’s new full-time department will feature a full staff with access to much of the latest technology available to firefighters but Moon still holds to a steadfast method.

&uot;When it comes down to firefighting, you still have to put water on the fire,&uot; he said.

But the Calera Fire Department is often called to help citizens with much more than fires.

Much of the call volume is EMS related and the department is routinely called to severe traffic accidents, but Moon said Calera Firefighters are even sometimes asked to remove snakes from peoples houses. He said one of his most memorable times was responding to a call about a dog that was stuck in a drain pipe several years ago.

&uot;We tried everything we could think of to get that dog out of that pipe,&uot; Moon said. &uot;It was kind of chilly outside, so we finally opened up the hose and the dog flushed its way out.&uot;

Responding to such calls is all just part of the job, Moon says.

&uot;It takes a special person to be a firefighter,&uot; Moon said. &uot;People don’t really know anything about you until they need you. They don’t realize the danger these guys put themselves in to protect them.

&uot;But that’s our job,&uot; Moon said. &uot;We’ll put our lives on the line to save someone else.&uot;

The Calera Fire Department can be reached at 668-3518 for non-emergency calls and Moon urges citizens to call 911 immediately in the event of an emergency