Two Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department Captains and one Driver will retire this month. Captain Ricky Jones will retire July 3 with 37 years of service, Driver Eddie Mitchell will retire July 3 after 31 years of service, and Captain/Shift Inspector Randy Rae will retire after 30 years of service on July 11.
One common thought among all three retirees is that their greatest pleasure from working at MFRD came from the opportunities they received to help the citizens in the community. "We respond to citizens on what is a lot of times their worst day," said Mitchell, "and we try to make it better."
The three have also enjoyed forming lifetime friendships with their brothers and sisters at MFRD and in the fire service in general.
Each was asked his most memorable call. For Jones, it was a house fire on Bell Street. "There were four people trapped inside," he said. "One of my firefighters at the time was Bobby Canterbury. I did not realize it until later, but the people trapped inside were his family members. I will never forget that."
Mitchell could not settle on just one memorable call. He said in the Summer of 1985 when he was the only Firefighter at Station 3 (Mercury Boulevard) they responded to six fires in just one 24-hour shift. "There were two house fires, a huge tree fire at Middle Tennessee State University, a car fire, a brush fire, and a commercial fire," Mitchell said. He also recalled May 2003 when straight line winds caused a lot of destruction across the city. "We left the station that evening and did not return till after shift change," he said. "We went from one call to the next, and when we returned to the station, there was about a foot of standing water from the flood."
Rae's most memorable call was the fiery crash on Interstate 24 where a young couple headed to Bonnaroo perished due to fire. "It was one of the worst calls I can remember in my career at MFRD," Rae remarked.
These gentleman have all seen many changes over the years, but the biggest changes were the number of technical rescue services provided to the community, the level of medical service (no medical to first responder to basic life support), and the technology. According to Jones, when he started with the department, all they had for protection from fire was a coat and helmet. "We progressed over the years to full personal protective equipment with airpacks," he said. Jones also mentioned today's use of computers and thermal imaging cameras in the fire service. "These items have greatly increased our abilities to serve the citizens over the years."
When asked what each plans to do in retirement, they mutually agreed that spending more time with family and not missing so many special occasions is number one on the list. Jones and Mitchell plan to golf more frequently and Rae intends to travel. Jones will continue serving the community in the nursing field and Mitchell will continue helping the fire service as the President of the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association and as an active member of the Local 3035 Murfreesboro Fire Fighters Association.
Chief Cumbey Gaines, who will also retire in August 2015, commented on his fellow retirees: "There are a lot of us older Firefighters who are hanging up our helmets. It is bittersweet for sure. Although we will no doubt enjoy spending more time with our families at home, we will miss our fire service family members."
Jones and Mitchell will celebrate with friends and coworkers in a small ceremony on June 30th. Rae will celebrate July 8th.