Quarter-century of service to Pelham

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Kenny McMurry battled his first fire when Jimmy Carter was President.

He probably didn’t know that by the time he retired 25 years later, the city of Pelham would boast four fire departments and 63 staff members.

McMurry served his last day as a Pelham firefighter recently.

He said he’s not sure what he’ll do with his free time, but the quarter-century he spent with the men and women of the Pelham Fire Department will never leave his mind.

Many of the firefighters who joined the department with McMurry 25 years ago are still there, waiting for the next call to come.

When McMurry joined the Pelham Fire Department, the city had one station with five paid firefighters. Today, 63 people work for the growing department.

A friend encouraged McMurry to come to the tiny fire station to see if he liked working as a firefighter. Twenty-five years later, he showed that he did.

&uot;I started volunteering and I enjoyed it,&uot; McMurry said during his retirement reception, held Monday at Pelham Fire Station No. One.

The veteran firefighter said he doesn’t have concrete retirement plans yet. Maybe he’ll start his own mechanic’s business, or maybe he’ll just enjoy his free time. The McCalla native said he will enjoy spending more time hunting, fishing and riding horses, but the leisurely lifestyle will take some getting used to.

&uot;After 25 years of getting up at five o’clock, it’s gonna be a big transition,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s gonna take some getting used to.&uot;

Lt. Don Green of the Pelham Fire Department recalled 15 years of service with McMurry.

Before he was promoted to lieutenant in 1990, McMurry was a driver engineer. His long and varied career in the fire department made McMurry a valuable part of the Pelham fire team, Green said.

&uot;He has a very deep knowledge of the fire service,&uot; Green said. &uot;Before he was promoted, he was one of the best driver engineers I’ve ever worked with.&uot;

Pelham Fire Chief Gary Waters worked with McMurry from the very

beginning. He said McMurry was always ready to go, no matter what the call.

&uot;He’s probably one of the most reliable men I’ve ever known,&uot; Waters said. &uot;He is one of those rare people that when you give him a task, you can guarantee that it gets done.&uot;

On Monday afternoon, firefighters and old friends gathered at Pelham Fire Station No. One to bid farewell to their 25-year veteran. All of them said they had countless memories of working with McMurry. Waters explained that firefighters learn to bury many of the painful memories in their minds rather than re-living them day after day.

Waters guessed that McMurry responded to thousands of calls throughout his 25-year career.

&uot;All of those calls – the lighter moments you remember more than anything,&uot; he said. &uot;As firefighters, we commit the darker moments to the back of our memory.&uot;

Once, in an effort to respond as quickly as possible to a fire call, McMurry got into a virtual drag race with another fire truck. Waters said McMurry &uot;always had the drive and the desire to get there.&uot;

After the cake was finished and the last day of McMurry’s career in the Pelham Fire Department came to a close on Monday, one lady had a new problem: replacing a 25-year fire veteran.

Robin Wilkinson, secretary for the Pelham Fire Department, said the department must find a trained and certified firefighter to replace McMurry. It’s an unlikely task, considering the quarter of a century that

McMurry devoted

to the job