New Pelham fire chief inspired by father

Published 4:12 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

Pelham Fire Chief Danny Ray keeps a photograph from the April 6, 1972 edition of the Shelby County Reporter in his newly moved-in office.

In it a 13-year-old Danny watches his father, former Pelham Fire Chief O.C. Ray, operate a fire hose during a training session for the city’s new junior volunteer firefighter program.

Ray, who was appointed by Mayor Don Murphy and the Pelham City Council March 23, said firefighting has long been a family affair.

“I grew up with it, stayed with it all the way through school, graduated from Pelham High School in 1978, and started here Jan. 3, 1979 when I was 19 years old,” he said.

Ray said his interest in firefighting grew while observing his father. O.C Ray served as the city’s second fire chief from 1969- 1977, when the department switched from a volunteer operation to a city-operated service.

“Before the days of 911, we had an extension of the emergency phone in our house,” Ray said. “I thought it was exciting when the phone rang in the middle of the night.”

Ray received an associate’s degree in fire science management from Shelton State Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration from Athens State University. He also holds 12 levels of certification from the Alabama Fire College and Personnel Standards Commission, and is a basic and advanced life support instructor.

But of all his achievements, Ray said his most cherished honor occurred last month.

“It was a very, very big honor to have my father pin the chief’s badge on me,” he said. “I actually got his chief’s badge in my memorabilia.”

Ray said he and city officials are exploring long-term goals, which include hiring additional firefighters and building a northeast-area fire station near County Road 11. Ray also hopes to purchase a new ladder truck down the line.

Ray added the 80-person department is exercising fiscal conservatism. The city council voted to eliminate the deputy chief position, and two open positions are not being filled at this time. Ray said the economy was a driving factor in the council’s decision.

Ray succeeds Danny Endress, who will continue at the fire department as batallion chief.