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Archive for Friday, September 12, 1997

THREE LONGTIME FIREFIGHTERS RETIRING

September 12, 1997

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Three firefighters with experience totaling 85 years will work their last day Sunday.

When Lloyd "Hammer" Hammerschmidt began work at the Lawrence Fire Department, there were two stations and about 20 firefighters.

"There's been a lot of changes over the years," said Hammerschmidt, who started work on Aug. 1, 1967.

He is one of three retiring firefighters with experience totaling 85 years.

In addition to Hammerschmidt, now a captain, firefighter Israel Bermudez and Capt. Carl Myer also are retiring.

Bermudez began work Sept. 1, 1970, and Myer started Sept. 1, 1969.

The last day for all three is Sunday.

At a private party for Hammerschmidt on Thursday night, he reflected on his 30-year career.

He said the most trying time was in the early 1970s, when student unrest in and around Kansas University resulted in the arson of many buildings, gunshots fired at fire trucks and the burning of the Student Union in 1970.

"That was early in my career, and there was a lot of stress," he said.

Hammerschmidt said, however, the worst incident in his career occurred on July 17, 1986, when a member of his company, Mark Blair, died fighting a house fire on Rimrock Drive.

"That was probably the lowest point in my career," he said.

The high point, Hammerschmidt said, was being able to save many homes, business and vehicles.

"That was a great, great satisfaction," he said.

Also, Hammerschmidt said working with other firefighters was one aspect of the job he liked best.

"I like being in middle management," he said. "I love to be out with the guys in the field."

Asked what advice he had for young firefighters, Hammerschmidt said: "The way the system works now, get as much education as you can about firefighting and EMS.

"Every fire is different, and it takes experience and knowledge to know what to do."

Today, the combined Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical has about 120 firefighters and paramedics. Before the merger, there were about 90 firefighters in the fire department.

Battalion Chief Bill Stark said Hammerschmidt, Bermudez and Myer had brought much to the department.

"It's tough to think of all the things they've done," he said.

A reception for Bermudez and Myer will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. today at Fire & Medical station No. 3, 3708 W. Sixth.

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