Don Ringer, now 69, joined the department in 1948 when he was 21. He will retire in December after 49 years of service with the Waynesboro Fire Department, including four years as a part-time chief.
He's been a bargain for taxpayers over that period, earning about $6,500 a year for serving as chief line officer, preparing payroll and filing the monthly fire report.
But that will change with his retirement. The Waynesboro Borough Council decided Wednesday to hire a full-time fire chief at a salary of $30,000 when Ringer retires, Councilwoman Vicki Huff said.
The council will combine a vacancy in one of its five paid driver positions and Ringer's retirement to create the chief's position, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.
"We took stock and decided we needed a full-time chief," he said.
The department's two companies, the Always There Hook and Ladder Co. and the Mechanics Steam Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1, have about 150 volunteers.
Ringer retired as a firefighter and fire inspector at Letterkenny Army Depot in 1983.
He remembers driving his first fire truck - a 1926 American LaFrance. "I've driven every piece of equipment the department has had since then," he said.
His most vivid memory dates back to August 1994, when a twin-engine plane crashed into a house, killing two people on board and two people in the house.
Other fires destroyed the a Catholic seminary, the Anthony Wayne Hotel and the White Swan Hotel. In October 1974 a fire that started in a closet destroyed the Fairview Avenue School.
And he remembers the fire that caused major damage to the Frick Co. in 1988. "I pumped water for 12 hours in that one," he said.
And there were deaths.
"It's the worst thing when you lose a life. I could never get used to it. I must have helped pull 30 bodies out of fires, auto accidents and drownings over the years," he said.
Ringer said the best advice he can give to his successor is to keep harmony between the paid drivers and volunteer firefighters. "There's always friction. I don't know how to avoid it," he said.