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Retiring fireman goes for his last ride

Oxford resident Larry Bradford arrived home in a Bloomfield Township fire engine to celebrate his last day of work. He was with the department for 30˝ years. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
May 07, 2014 - A Bloomfield Township fire truck was spotted Monday afternoon on Country View Drive in Oxford Township.

But the truck wasn't here to provide mutual aid at a fire scene or help clean up some hazardous materials spill.

It was taking Oxford resident Larry Bradford home on his last day of work.

Bradford retired from the Bloomfield Township Fire Department after 30˝ years of service as a full-time firefighter and 28 years as a paramedic.

"It's been a great job," he said. "I worked with a great bunch of guys."

The two things Bradford will miss most about firefighting are "the adrenaline rush" and "the camaraderie."

"I think everybody says that when they leave the job – they don't miss the job so much as they miss the camaraderie of the guys," he said. "It's a big brotherhood. That becomes your family for a big chunk of your life. A third of your life you're at the fire department. We're all a bunch of big kids and we all like to have fun when we can."

Bradford began his fire career as a teenage cadet for the Avon Township Fire Department, now Rochester Hills. When he turned 18, he served as a paid-on-call firefighter for that agency for 5˝ years.

He briefly worked as a paid-on-call firefighter for Orion Township during which time he landed the full-time gig in Bloomfield Township.

To him, the most rewarding part of the job was "the ability to help people."

"When we show up, a lot of times it's the worst day of their lives," said Bradford, who's lived in Oxford for almost 24 years. "You're there to hopefully, help them get through it."

Bradford's career was full of "good runs and bad runs," but nothing that could be made into a TV movie of the week.

"I never delivered any babies or anything like that," he said with a chuckle.

Firefighting runs in Bradford's family.

His father was a paid-on-call firefighter for Avon Township.

His son, Ben, has worked as a full-time firefighter/paramedic for Bloomfield Township since 2009.

"That was pretty special because they never had a father-son (team) before. We were the first one," Bradford said. "It's been cool. We don't work the same shift, but we have ended up on the same runs a few times."

It was Ben, a 2006 Oxford High School graduate, who drove his father home on Monday.

"He's a lot better at his job than I ever was," Bradford said. "You hope your kids are always better than you. He's very smart and much more physically fit than I've ever been."

It was a surprise to Bradford that his son, who worked for the Oxford Fire Department as a paid-on-call staffer from 2006-09, chose firefighting as a profession and even more of a surprise when he landed in Bloomfield Township.

"When he was younger, he showed no interest in it," he said. "When he said he wanted to be a fireman, I never dreamed that we'd be working at the same department."

Ben described working with his father as a "great experience." He's appreciated both his dad's knowledge and willingness to let him be his own man.

"He helped me out with some things, but he let me figure out a lot of it on my own," he said.

From his dad, Ben said he learned how to be dedicated to his profession while always remembering to "put family first."

"I definitely look up to him," he said.

Ben said driving his dad home was a "bittersweet" experience, but he's "really happy for him."

Bradford plans to spend his retirement working part-time for his window-cleaning business.

"No fireman retires completely," he said. "Most firemen do something on the side."

The rest of the time he plans to spend enjoying life, spending time with his wife Teddi and doing things he didn't get to do much while being a firefighter working 24-hour shifts.

"I'll get to sleep in my own bed, for a change, every night and hopefully, get a full night's sleep," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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