Retired INL firefighters return to CFA for a day of reminiscing, visiting and touring
Story and photos by Carisa Schultz for Laboratory Protection
Retired INL firefighters recently enjoyed a day of fun, food, tours and a chance to reminisce about times gone by. About 20 visitors, retired INL firefighters and their guests, were invited by INL’s Fire Department to visit CFA Fire Station #1 on Aug. 10 to look at new equipment, peruse historic photos and other artifacts, have lunch and take a bus tour of site facilities.
This reunion was only the second of its kind to take place in INL history. The last reunion was approximately 15 years ago.
The visitors brought guests and toured a fire st
ation that is new to most of them. The current CFA fire station building was completed in 1999, several years after most of the visiting retirees left the site. New equipment was on display and a few of the visitors took advantage of the opportunity to ride in INL’s new ladder truck. The ladder reaches over 100 feet and can be used in case of fire at the very tallest of INL structures such as TRA-670, the Advanced Test Reactor building.
Current firefighters grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for the retirees and their guests and lunch was served in the kitchen where INL’s firefighters eat their meals while on duty. Retirees shared historic stories with current INL firefighters over lunch and when the retirees toured the station.
Two of the visiting firefighters were involved in the initial response to the tragic SL-1 event at the Army Reactor Area (ARA) in 1961. They told fascinating stories about the dangerous response to this accident because of the extremely high radiation levels detected upon their arrival at the facility. For more detailed information regarding the SL-1 accident click on this link to the INL history account in Proving the Principle.
Former firefighter Robert Archer was one of the firemen who responded to the SL-1 accident back in 1961. He and his daughter, Becky Penn, traveled from Burley to participate in the reunion. Penn remembers coming to the Site in the family’s camper to pick her dad up from work very early one morning so that they could start their vacation. She said, “Dad was hired at INL because he was a firefighter in the Navy.”
Bill Flagler, retired INL firefighter, said, “This reunion is a great opportunity to see what has changed and what is new, but mostly you just miss the people.” Jim Blair, INL Fire Department Operations manager, agreed that a reunion was a great way to recognize the contributions of the retired firefighters and for the current firefighters to learn lessons from others’ experience.
“It is very important to bring back our retired brothers for a number of reasons,” he said. “First and most importantly, they are family and we will always respect what they represent and what they have contributed to INL. Next, it is important for us to learn from the stories of the past. We learn from past successes and mistakes. We recognize that our history is important to our future. Finally, it is important for our current and past firefighters to understand that once you are firefighter, you will always be honored as one.”
The retired firefighters appeared to enjoy meeting and talking with the current firefighters. “They shared their stories with great pride,” Blair said. “We laughed together and just really enjoyed each other’s company.”
He also said they were very impressed with the new facilities and the improved firefighting tools and apparatus. “This was just a lot of fun for everyone that had the opportunity to participate,” he said.
When asked, “What’s your favorite part of the reunion?” the response from everyone within ear-shot was, “the people!”