Murray recognized for 36 years

—Pat Murray retired from Cresco volunteer FD
‘The history of the fire department dies with the firefighter. There’s always more to the story.’ — Pat Murray


CRESCO - “I’ve had a blast,” Pat Murray said about retiring from the Cresco Community Fire Department after nearly four decades on its roster. “I don’t think anyone takes us for granted. It’s been quite a privilege to serve the community.”
Murray is the last firefighter on the department who actually started out in the “other” fire station, that was located in the Theatre parking lot.
He had only been a firefighter for 3-4 months before the move was made to the current station. “The other one was cold! That’s what I remember!”
He also recalls how many fire chiefs he has worked under since then. It isn’t hard . . . there were just three—Vince Hornberger, Willard Balk and Neal Stapelkamp!
Over the years, Murray was also in a seat of authority as he has been Lieutenant, Captain and Assistant Fire Chief. “Then I went back to just being a firefighter. I liked teaching the younger guys.”
He credits the chiefs, along with the City of Cresco, mayors and township trustees, for keeping the equipment in good shape. “Without them 
supporting us, we could be running around with dilapidated equipment.”
He also gives a big shout out to the spouses and families of the firefighters. “None of this would be possible without our spouses. I have missed graduations, confirmations, barbecues, family get-togethers and more. They understand that.”
He started his 36-and-a-half years of fire service in February 1981, which is the same year he married his wife, Lynn. He retired on July 1, 2017. The couple have one daughter, Meredith.
Murray says the Cresco department is blessed. “When one goes off [the roster], there is another one on the list to take over.” And becoming a volunteer firefighter isn’t easy. Within the first year, each volunteer has to be FireFighter I certified. That entails around 40 classroom hours and 20 hours of practical training.
Favorite Part
“That would be working with the other firefighters. I had a ball! It’s a lot of work, and as bad as it sounds, I had a good time.
“It’s such a fraternity. The department is a hodgepodge of people. All of us come from different backgrounds, genders and incomes. But we have each other’s backs,’ Murray stated.
Least Favorite
“Any fire that had a fatality stands out in your mind. Or a family got out, but their home was destroyed, along with their photos and contents.”
He recalls just four fatalities, where the victims died of smoke inhalation.
Some of the bigger fires he mentioned were Scooter’s Tower Club and SMI.
Changes over the years obviously include equipment. But some other changes are more personal to Murray.
“The biggest change was when we got our first full set of turnout gear. They measured us, so the gear fit. Before that, they pointed to a pile of pants, coats and boots and told us to pick out what fit best. Nothing fit! It was either too big, too small, too tall or too short. Within a half-hour of getting to a fire, your feet hurt, since the boots were either a half-size big or small.”
His second favorite change is lighting. “Now we have stadium lights. Before, we were tripping over stuff all the time when we went out at night.”
Mutual aid has become more important to area fire departments. He mentioned the smaller towns in the county have many firefighters who don’t work in the town they live, which leaves fewer men and women to attack a fire. 
Mutual aid brings in other departments to help during those situations.
“Firefighting is 100 percent safer now than it was 36 years ago,” Murray declared. “Years ago, the first two guys who got to the station took out the truck and then started hooking up hoses. The others showed up at the fire in their cars. When the van showed up with the gear, they put it on. That never happens anymore!”
“Now we all get in the trucks at the station and don’t get out without a pack on.”
Considering Murray figures he has been to over 1,000 fire calls in his 36-year tenure, he said there have not been any major accidents. “The logistics of that are staggering. One thousand different fires, 25 guys at each fire and 4-5 fire department vehicles. That’s impressive for a paid department, let along a volunteer department.”
Fire Prevention Week
Murray has noticed the Fire Prevention Week program has paid off in dividends. Before the young students were introduced to the program, he figures there were 15 garage fires a year. After getting educated on fire prevention, “now we get one about every five years,” he estimated.
One piece of advice the veteran firefighter passes on is to stay low when a house is smoky. It only takes a couple of large breaths to cause a person to pass out.
Fire Department History
Over the years, Murray has found there are two histories of Cresco Community Fire Department—the one that is recorded in history books and reports and another that dies with the firefighter.
He was in charge of giving a history of the department for a banquet. He researched the beginning of the organization and other notable pieces of information.
For fun, he cut out pictures from old newspapers. The history as told in the cutlines gave the address, date and how many firefighters showed up.
Murray learned “every fire has a story.”
When the volunteers looked at one of the pictures, they recalled much more than the date. They remembered that was the one when Sonny Slifka fell on the ice. They commented, “We thought he was hurt, but he popped right back up.” Or “That was the one where a car was parked in front of the hydrant.” Or “That time the truck wouldn’t start.”
Murray tossed out his history and told the guys to just reminisce over the pictures.
“The history of the fire department dies with the firefighter,” Murray observed. “There’s always more to the story.”
Things the general public doesn’t know
Besides some of the stories kept behind the fire house walls, there are other things only known by other firefighters.
Lots of things happen before the local heroes start to attack the fire. It is second-nature for firefighters to know exactly where to start setting up and get hold of the gas and electric companies to shut those utilities off. No one has specific duties, each person does what has to be done. They are prepared to have dogs and cats jump out as soon as they open the door.
What now?
Murray has lived in Cresco his entire life and retired last January after 29 years with Donaldsons. He then began a new career as Howard County Supervisor (following in the steps of his father and mother).
So even though he is no longer volunteering as a Cresco firefighter, he is still working for the betterment of the county.
In retrospect, Murray said he worked with some phenomenal people.
“I had a ball. I hope everyone had a ball with me.”

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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