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Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Russell bids farewell to fire chief

Hundreds of firefighters, mourners turn out for funeral

April 17, 2002

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— The Russell fire chief, killed while directing traffic at an accident scene, was remembered Monday as a dedicated firefighter who lived to serve others.

Chief Earl Hemphill, 61, died Thursday when he was struck by a Paradise fire truck responding to an accident north of Russell. The fire truck collided with a Ford Explorer owned by Russell County, then struck Hemphill, Russell County Sheriff John Fletcher said.

More than 200 firefighters from across the state, along with hundreds of friends, family and community members, watched as Hemphill's casket was placed atop a fire truck that he helped purchase.

Bagpipers and an honor guard led the funeral procession past the Russell Fire Department and to the cemetery.

State Fire Marshal Gale Haag said Hemphill was known for pushing to make his small department the best it could be through training and purchase of the best possible equipment.

"He had a special passion for doing things better, doing them safer, educating everyone," Haag said.

The mourners included about 40 firefighters and officers from the Salina Fire Department, where Hemphill's son, Larry, 38, is a lieutenant.

Hemphill had been involved with the department since 1967, starting out as a volunteer firefighter before being named full-time chief in 1982.

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