By Phil Ryan
Eight of Buffalo’s bravest in the Buffalo Fire Department were honored for their service last month at a retirement party in the Bison City Rod and Gun Club. Over 300 family members, friends and retired and active firefighters showed up and showed their respect and gratitude to these men. These eight brave recipients have seen it all, and their leadership and experience will be missed.
Out of these eight, every rank from battalion chief to firefighter was represented. Over my 32 years at the Fire Department, I had the pleasure of working with every one of these exceptional firefighters at one time or another. There were no slackers in this group.
All of them worked at the busiest firehouses in the city for most of their careers. Some were promoted and assigned to new firehouses, but eventually they gravitated back to the working houses either on the East Side or West Side. From car accidents, to propane explosions to devastating house fires, these guys have seen it all.
Firefighters don’t always receive the acclaim they deserve because most of their work is done in the middle of the night, while most citizens are home safe and sound. But if you were ever in need of their service at any time of day, they were usually there within three to four minutes.
These were guys who were never out sick – they loved coming to work and the action of the job. But there were times when they were off for burns and broken bones from falls or other injuries, sometimes for months and some career-ending.
One of the recipients was a captain who was destined to be a chief, but his career was cut short because of health issues. He was reluctant to retire and will be sorely missed on the streets of Buffalo, where his knowledge and bravery saved many a life.
He is also known for his wit and sense of humor, as most firefighters are. If you don’t have this quality when you come on, you usually acquire it quickly. If not, you find yourself the brunt of many jokes or pranks. Never are they mean-spirited, but if you screw up, on the job or off, it usually makes it through the ranks of the Fire Department pretty quickly.
There have been many studies done about police officers and firefighters and the tragedies that they witness day in and day out. Researchers have found that humor is how they cope.
Another retired captain with over 32 years of experience has seen it all. He progressed from a rookie firefighter to working the rescue to running the Fire Academy in Cheektowaga. Normally a chief runs the academy, but when the last chief retired, the promotional list had expired and none was scheduled, so this captain took over and did an outstanding job.
From new recruits to new officers or training exercises, everyone passes through the training academy, usually two or three times throughout a career. A huge void was created when this captain walked out the door for the last time. But I am confident someone will step up, take command and continue the tradition.
I could go on and on about all of the retirees and their individual accomplishments, but I would need a page or more and space is limited. So, take my word for it, and that of the over 300 others who attended one of the biggest retirement parties in the history of the Buffalo Fire Department. These men and their combined 250 years of experience will be sorely missed.
However, they will continue to protect the citizens of Buffalo and look out for each other in life-and-death situations.
To all of Buffalo’s bravest, stay safe.