lifesaver takes a break SVFD Chief retires
Long-time Seymour Volunteer firefighter Darryl Kerley will be stepping down December 31, 2005 as chief of the volunteer force and handing over the reigns to Chuck Godfrey.
“It has been extremely rewarding and I’ve really enjoyed serving the people of Seymour,” said Kerley. “And maybe in a year or two I’ll look at reapplying for assistant chief or officer position again.”
Kerley has been with the fire department for 23 years having served as captain, training officer, assistant chief, and chief over the course of his tenure.
While Kerley is not officially retiring from his firefighting post, he plans on taking some time off to spend with his family. “I’m going to take a year off—we have a brand new grandbaby and my father’s having some health problems,” said Kerley. “But, I’m going to continue to fight fires and continue writing grants.”
On top of all that, Kerley plans on continuing to help train the department, as well as teaching for the Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy in Nashville, while still working full-time as the fire chief at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge.
Once a uranium enrichment facility, the plant currently serves as the center of Department of Energy’s environmental restoration and waste management activities. Now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park, portions of K-25 are being leased as an industrial park for private companies as part of a reindustrialization effort.
“Between K-25 and here it became quite overwhelming,” said the ever-busy Kerley.
“But, the radio will still be on 24-7, and I’ll still respond; I just won’t have the same duty or obligation,” he said.
In his years with the department, Kerley was a key factor in obtaining grants for items such as personal protective equipment and self contained breathing apparatuses. In his three years as chief, the department was able to obtain 40 sets of bunker gear ($1,200 a set), 34 new air packs ($4,000 a piece), replace two fire trucks, and purchase hand held radios for every firefighter on the force.
Recently, Kerely has been participating in a unique grant program with the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. “I’ve been a grant reviewer for that program for the last two years,” said Kerley.
Those invited to attend spend five days reading grant applications from their peer fire departments from across the country. The participants score the applications and the score helps determine where funding will go.
“It’s the most fair federal grant program in the nation right now,” said Kerley, “and Congress is looking at it as a role model to model other grants programs around this
“We recently received a grant for $134,000 which allowed us to replace all of our SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) with new state of the art SCBAs which run about $4000 a piece,” said Kerley.
According to Kerley, the air packs have a specialized alarm that alerts other firefighters if one of them is trapped or in trouble. They also carry a charge of 4500 PSI which will last for 45 minutes.
To recharge the packs, SVFD, with Kerley’s help, were able to obtain $27,000 for a new specific air compressor to replenish the air in the tanks.
These grants, and others, were provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance to firefighters grants.
And the new Chief?
Chuck Godfrey is not exactly a new face to the volunteer force, having served for the past 19 years. “I’ve been a captain, an assistant chief and I’ve been Darryl’s assistant chief.”
“I think chuck will do an excellent job for the fire department,” said Kerley. “He’s very knowledgeable about the fire service and he’s very knowledgeable about finances.”
“I’m very nervous because there’s a lot of responsibility,” said Godfrey. “People don’t realize all that’s involved—the weight of the world just falls on you—in any chief officer’s position.”
“Darryl’s been in the fire service and has seen the transition of what we call traditional, old school to the advancement of new ideals and the transformation of presenting new ideals to this organization,” said Godfrey. “That’s been a large task to overcome because so many guys had a lot of old school tradition in them, which Darryl brought through his tenure.”
Godfrey currently works for BB&T bank.
The department now has one chief position and three assistant chiefs to run six fire stations. The officers serve three year terms which are staggered so that every year there’s a chief officer up for election.
The current assistant chiefs are Rod Davis, Rod Dykes, and John Linsenbigler.
Just 23 years ago the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department had one station and five trucks for its 35 firefighters. Currently, the department has six stations, 17 vehicles and 55 firefighters. All of them volunteers.
Kerley began firefighting in 1977 with Rural Metro in Knoxville where he worked for three or four years before moving to Seymour.