Source: Sherman Publications

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On duty for 30 years

by David Fleet

October 09, 2013

Atlas Twp.- Fred Forys admits his wife Beth of 41 years is growing tired of the chatter and beeps of two pagers and three radios that often dominates the conversation of the family home.

"I need a jump on the calls," said Fred Forys, township fire chief. "If we are going to assist other departments in Oakland or Genesee (counties), I want to know in advance."

While such commitment to the township fire department may be irksome to family members—it has been a benefit to the community for more than three decades.

Forys 61, will be recognized for 30 years of service to the township fire department this year.

A Flint native and 1972 Kearsley High School graduate, Forys said plenty has changed over the years.

"I started as a volunteer firefighter in 1983 and was trained in a class provided by Jim Seifert of the Grand Blanc Township Fire Department," he said. "At the time that was only class many of the firefighters had. Some of the older crew had no training at all."

In the early 1980s, volunteer firefighters earned $3 per call, which later increased to $8 and then $10. Today they earn $15.50 per hour.

"It's always been hard to get firefighters to go out on a call during the day," he said. "It's a physically demanding job over the years. The amount of training has become a lot more stringent, too—it's a lot safer and is mandatory."

"My first fire was on Jossman Road—the blaze started in the kitchen and spread to the attic," he said. "It smoldered a long time I remember, but it was a good save."

Two years later Forys was promoted to lieutenant and in 1986 he became captain.

In 2006 Forys replaced Jim Naugler who had been fire chief in the township since 2001, when he replaced Donald Welch following his resignation. A township resident, Forys retired from the Pontic Truck and Bus facility that same year.

"We've come a long way as a department over the years," he said. "There's been some very memorable fire calls."

Forys recalled a 1992 fire at the Goodrich Bus garage near Erie Street in the Village of Goodrich..

"We were having the floor painted at the old fire hall located on Hegel Road so we moved three of the five firetrucks to the school's bus garage," he said. "I received a call that the bus garage was on fire and when I arrived smoke was coming out of the roof of the garage."

Forys entered the building and jumped into one of the three trucks parked inside.

"The first truck would not start, so I jumped in the second fire truck and crashed it through the garage doors right out into the parking lot. Drove the third truck out of the garage, too, and proceeded to put the fire out. The trucks just had some smoke damage."

"Over the years I've responded to many calls," he said. "The vehicle accidents are by far the worst. You just will never forget some of those accidents."

"Today I still respond on the calls," he said. "Over the years I've missed Christmas dinner or headed out in the middle of the night. Everytime it snows you know those calls to M-15 are coming soon."

"As soon as I can't do what the rest of the crew can, I'll retire," he added. "But I'll stay around for a few more years."

Fred and Beth have two children, Kelly and Ryan, and three grandchildren, Trevor, Hannah and Nolan.