Tenn. fire department honors past firefighters

By Mike Blackerby
The Knoxville News-Sentinel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Almost every time the bell sounded for the "last alarm" roll call of Knoxville Fire Department retirees who died in the past year, it brought back a flood of remembrances for retired KFD Capt. Bill Warwick.

Fire Chief Stan Sharp read the names of seven KFD retirees who died in the past year at Tuesday's Fallen Firefi ghters Memorial ceremony.

He also read the name of the latest fi refighter to be added to the base of the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park statue, which honors those who died in the line of duty.

The tradition-steeped and emotional ceremony at the downtown Fire Department headquarters began in Knoxville in 1985. About 250 onlookers were on hand for the event, which included a colorful processional by the KFD honor guard and bagpiper Jay Jenkins.

Each year, the fire chief calls out the names of those who died in the line of duty and retirees who have died in the past year. The bell sounds the last alarm for each fi refi ghter after his name is called.

Warwick, whose 35-year career began in 1967, knew seven of the eight fi refi ghters who were honored.

"The life of a fi refi ghter is great because you have camaraderie and build up friendships that last forever," said the 71-year-old Warwick.

The seven KFD retirees who died in the last year included Troy Harrell, C.L. Lowe, Crosby Drew Jr., Bill McCoy, Buddy Foulks, Joseph Heath and former Fire Chief Paul Warwick.

Robert Blankenship, a captain who died of a heart attack following a fire call in 2003, will have his name engraved on the memorial statue.

Warwick, who is distantly related to the former fire chief, shared memories of his peers.

"We called Harrell 'Granny' — he never got excited and he was real laid back," said Warwick with a smile. "Chief Paul Warwick was large in stature, strong in voice and exerted strong leadership. Drew had a reputation for being kind to the men he worked for. He was a great leader."

Warwick said there's a reason that fi refi ghters are a close-knit fraternity.

"As public servants, they give up their time to spend away from their families and do their 24-hour shifts. You put your life on the line every time you get on that fire truck."

Copyright 2009 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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