Phil Harris keeps city safe

Published 2:02 pm Friday, December 2, 2011

Alabaster Fire Inspector Phil Harris has been keeping the city safe for many years, and has not seen a commercial fire in Alabaster since he took over the position. (Contributed)

By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist

Some people know what their goal in life is at an early age. Many little boys (and a few girls) dream of becoming a fireman or a paramedic, but Phil Harris didn’t make that decision until after graduation from Calera High School and 14 years on a job at ABC Rail.

“I wasn’t happy at work — midnight shift — I just wanted more,” Harris said.

Harris asked for a one-year leave of absence to try and build a new career.

Basic, intermediate, paramedic, rookie: He attained them all through long, difficult classes at UAB. Not necessarily a youngster at the time, it was a “gutsy” objective for Harris.

Harris volunteered with the Alabaster Fire Department during his schooling at UAB. After graduation, and as soon as a position was available, Harris began his fire career. His first rescue van partner was the late Tommy Moon, a former schoolmate and family friend for more than 25 years. On Harris’s 50th birthday, he was promoted to lieutenant.

Wife Mary, the Shelby County circuit clerk, had a surprise birthday party planned and Chief Cochran added Phil’s promotion to the celebration.

Years of being a fireman and paramedic may have a part in making Harris the man he is today. He is quiet, considerate, mannerly and strong in his beliefs. Imagine how many accidents (both home and highway) and how many fires one must personally deal with as a fireman.

In his personal time, Harris enjoys the outdoors. He owns a Goldwing motorcycle that doesn’t get ridden a lot (watch out, retirement), and he loves camping with his wife.

He and Mary have raised daughter, Cindy, who has blessed them with three grandsons: Marshall, Tucker and Aubrey. The Harris’ son, Tommy, currently works in Montgomery.

“The best thing about being a pop is to thoroughly spoil them and then leave,” Harris said.

In January 2005, Harris became Alabaster’s fire inspector. His job is to inspect all commercial businesses, daycares, schools, hospitals and nursing homes to make sure the facilities are operating in accordance with state standards and codes. He enjoys meeting so many different people.

“It is mandatory for us to maintain the safety of the public,” Harris said. “I am most proud that we have not had a commercial fire in our city since I took this job.”

Harris attended a fire inspection seminar in Maryland in 2008, and drove because he wanted to see the Shenandoah Valley and some Civil War battle sites up close and personal. This was his favorite trip, though he and Mary are prone to “take off” for most any adventure.When retirement comes up, Harris really wants to be a Christian in action. He says he will visit the sick, volunteer, clean, help organize and do whatever it takes just to serve the Lord.

Our “late bloomer” just keeps on blooming!


Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by email at