First fire chief of North Shelby passes away

Published 2:38 pm Monday, August 1, 2011


NORTH SHELBY – The founder of the North Shelby Fire Department and former Fire Chief Winston Boutwell passed away Saturday, July 30 after his battle with cancer.

Boutwell became the North Shelby fire chief in 1978, when the fire district was founded, and retired in 1995.


“He was the first chief at the North Shelby Fire Department,” current North Shelby Fire Chief Mike O’Connor said. “He worked at Prichard Fire Department and was named chief in 1965. He was then recruited up here in 1978. He was chief for 16 years. Unfortunately, in 1995, when he was 65 years old, he had already had a bout with lung cancer.”

O’Connor said firefighters began wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses in 1968, and so much of Boutwell’s firefighting career saw him entering fires with nothing more than an aluminum helmet, a fire coat and rubber boots.

“It’s just amazing they could find anyone who would take that kind of job,” O’Connor said.

Doctors told Boutwell in January that he had two weeks, maybe a month, to live. O’Connor said he told the doctors that they were wrong, and that Boutwell would survive longer than a month.

“Of course, I was right,” O’Connor said. “He lived longer than that.”

Boutwell served his country in the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II and in Korea.

“He gave his life to the service of his country and the service of his community,” O’Connor said. “He didn’t ask anything extra for it. People don’t see the extra hours and weekends put in, the sacrifices they make. They also don’t see the sacrifices their families make. Their poor wives — they’re missing Christmases and birthdays and other things other parents aren’t missing. He made a lot of sacrifices, and deserves to be honored because of that.”

A viewing will be held at Southern Heritage Funeral Home Aug. 1 from 5-7 p.m. On Aug. 2, a funeral service will be held at the Chapel of Southern Heritage at 11 a.m. Interment will follow in the American National Cemetery in Montevallo.