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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A letter from Captain Wines

I received this letter tonight to explain a tradition that some firefighters don't know about. Captain Willy Wines wanted to add to my post about Garret Brantley ( here).
Captain Wines writes:
"Rhett, Im sitting here injured on the side lines tonight browsing through your blog. As you know, I check it often and sometimes call to add or give my thought. I have been wanting to write a little something to explain the picture you posted of me and Levi on his last day in company. First, many young guys in the Dept may not know of a tradition we have of sending a guy home (or taking him off the rig) at 5 pm on his last day. This is to prevent a death on your last day on the job. If my history is correct, this began back in 1972 when Assistant Chief Cox died in the line of duty at a 10-71 on Patton Ave. I think the date was Oct. 10th (please forgive me if my dates are off) and he was scheduled to retire on Nov. 10th. Although a month from off the books, I also believe that night was to be his last in company. Anyway, That's why I took Levi off the truck at 5pm. I've seen it done to every man retiring since I came on the job. It was done for my dad, I will do it for every man who works for me, and I hope I receive the same courtesy when I go. I will add a few things here. It KILLED Levi. He understood why, but didn't want to go. We caught a MVA right after and it sounded like a pin job but wasn't. The look on his face as we pulled out....well, it hurt. Moving on, I was upset that day for 2 reasons other than losing a good friend and great fireman and seeing his pain in giving up a job he loved. 1.) Not the first on-duty chief came by to shake his hand or wish him well. Now granted, he had exit interviews etc but they were weeks before. I don't know if you could call a chief visit and handshake on a mans last day a tradition or not but it is at least common courtesy! 2.) Coverage wasn't provided to send him home. The Battalion just didn't have a man to send and overtime was not approved. Of all the things we pay overtime for... all the wasted money we spend, it couldn't be found to follow this tradition? He has held over enough for late calls, guys running late for shift change etc that they owed him at least that. It may sound petty or like "nothing" to get wound up over, but it hits me hard! It hurts! I love this Dept and our history and traditions. My dad took a beating for as did many other retirees and if nothing else, we owe it to them to keep it going! Ok let me catch a breath here.. Anyway I wanted to let everyone know and to THANK YOU again Rhett. Everyone should know that you came in and worked the shift for Levi knowing he couldn't pay it back. 12 hours from your wife and son for a fellow firefighter and a long standing tradition and history! You banked mega points there brother and I will not forget it! So, the picture was Levi removing his gear from the Engine and handing it over to me in keeping with our tradition. I only wish it could have happened like 30 years or so from now. Good luck Levi, and thanks for everything! The hard work, the effort, the jokes and million dollar meals. And thanks again to you Rhett keep up the great work and let me know if I can help.
Willie Wines Jr.
Capt. Station # 4 -A-shift"

The correct date of Carl Cox's death was October 7, 1972. For more information check out the RFFA Historical Timeline.

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