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Recent promotion means TFD

position stays in the family

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

April 5, 2000 10 PM

On March 24, Lynn Welch stood his first shift as a lieutenant of the Troy Fire Department.

He felt a deep sense of pride in his promotion. After all, he had been a member of the TFD for 21 years and fire fighting was in his blood.

But what made this day even more special was the fact that the slot he filled had belonged to his brother, Jimmy Welch who retired from the TFD after 25 years. And, had it not been for his brother, Lynn Welch might never have been a firefighter.

Welch looked up to his older brother and was impressed by the work he did. Jimmy Welch took his job as a firefighter seriously and conveyed the importance of what he did by the pride he took in his job. Lynn Welch wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

"This kind of work gets in your blood," Welch said. "It’s not something you do today and don’t do tomorrow. You’re either committed or you’re not. If you don’t enjoy it, you don’t stay long."

Welch joined the TFD in April, 1979 and was promoted to sergeant in 1984.

"I think Jimmy was happier about my promotion than I was," Welch said, laughing.

Welch worked at the downtown station for a year then at Station No.2 for a couple of years. Then he was back downtown for a stint before finding a home at Station No. 2.

His lieutenants were Willie Park and Johnny Gibson and he learned a lot from both of them as he worked his way up the ranks from Firefighter II to sergeant and now lieutenant.

"The sergeant is the assistant shift supervisor," Welch said. "The lieutenant relays information regarding the way he want things done to the sergeant and the sergeant makes sure things get done the right way."

Welch said the big difference between being a sergeant and a lieutenant is now "the buck stops with me."

And that’s okay with Welch. His 21 years with the TFD have prepared him for the position he now holds.

"And they couldn’t have given me a better group of guys to break me in," he said. The firefighters on his shift are Patrick Lucas and Shane Brown and Buddy Fowee is the sergeant.

Welch said there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a lieutenant. A lieutenant oversees all fire fighting activities and training and he is in charge of the fire scene and accident scenes to which the firefighters might be called.

"We have an extraction rescue unit which gives paramedics accessibility to accident victims who are trapped in a vehicle," he said. "Firefighters always lend a hand when needed and that includes responding to emergencies outside the city limits of Troy if necessary.

Welch said Fire Station 2 responds to calls almost daily but he feels fortunate that, in his 21 years, there have been only a handful of fire related fatalities.

The credit for that goes to the fire department’s quick response time and to the fire prevention programs which are in place, especially in the schools.

"Firefighters might not save that many lives with hands-on opportunities but many lives are saved through fire prevention and safety programs," he said. "Most all school age kids know ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ But when I was in school we would have said, ‘Stop – what and what?’ Education saves lives and property."

Welch said firefighting techniques and equipment have improved greatly over the 21 years he’s been fighting fires.

"When I started, about all we could do was surround and drown," he said. "New techniques and equipment now allow us to go where the fire is and attack. That allows us to save lives and property."

Welch said he is looking forward to serving as a lieutenant with the Troy Fire Department and,as long as his health permits, and, as long as he feels he can contribute, he’ll stay with it.

"I don’t have any plans to retire after 25 years," he said. "Being a firefighter is who I am and it’s what I want to do. As long as I feel like I can help someone, that’s what I want to do."

Welch just might be setting an example for his young son to follow. Joey, a third grader at Troy Elementary School, has already shown interest in his dad’s profession. In fact, he helped his dad study for the test to quailify him for the rank of lieutenant.

"Joey was real interested in how I would do on the test," Welch said. "I believe he was as proud that I passed as I was. Of course my wife and Chris were happy, too, but Joey felt like he had a part in it and he did."

Welch said that being a fire fighter requires the support of your family and he has that.

"My family is behind me all the way," he said. "That makes doing my job much easier knowing that they understand and appreciate what I do. I wouldn’t trade my career as a fire fighter for any other profession. This is what I want to do. I get a lot of satisfaction from it and I hope I do a little good along the way."