Price reflects on 33-year career as a firefighter
MORGAN CITY, La. — The equipment and technology used to fight fires has changed a lot since 1980, Charlie Price remembers.
Price, 51, who recently retired as a captain in the Morgan City Fire Department, said fire clothing is “100 percent better” than when he started out as a firefighter 33 years ago.
“When I started, all we had was coats and hip boots. Now you’ve got the pads and fire protection clothes that cover you from top to bottom,” Price said.
He joined the fire department at age 18 right after graduating from Morgan City High School. His younger brother, Morris, who is now fire chief, and younger brother, John, who is assistant chief, followed him into firefighting.
Price went to high school with a lot of the firefighters he started with, he said. “It’s like going to work with a bunch of your brothers,” Price said. “Half of them were my brothers, and the other half were nephews and cousins.”
His son works at the department and Morris has a son who works there too.
He had a couple of uncles who worked there. One of his uncles recently died, Price said. “I guess you could call it the family business,” he said.
His first big fire was at a Texaco service station in 1981. “It makes you kind of question what you’re doing here,” Price said. He also remembers a fire at Shannon Hardware as another major fire in the area, he said.
The physical aspect of firefighting was the most challenging aspect of the job. “When I first started, I probably weighed 115, 120 pounds. A rubber hose weighed more than I did,” Price said. “That was a lot of us when we first started.”
He started out as a probation fireman in 1980 and then moved up to an acting operator, where he drove the truck and fought fires, and then moved to a permanent operator, which is driving all the time, then to an acting captain, and to a captain.
“Back when I first started, we had a lot more calls than we did now, but you had a lot less fire prevention and fire protection. Nowadays, we run more medical calls than we run calls,” Price said.
They respond to one or two medical calls per day, and on average respond to one fire call a week, one major fire call per month where something is actually burning, Price said.
“It’s gotten a lot better. I guess public education has gotten a lot better with it, and people are learning what they can and can’t do and really made a big difference,” Price said.
Price said he got his passion for training firefighters from Richard Bourgeois, who trained firefighters when Price first became a firefighter.
“It made the day go by. You always had something to do,” Price said. “I loved training new fireman. That’s just my thing I guess,” Price said.
His last physical day as a full-time firefighter was July 9. He had some time owed to him from other firefighters he had worked shifts for, but his last official day on the books is July 21.
Price plans to stay active in the department as a volunteer so he can still fight fires, he said. “I’ll be a fireman probably ’til I can’t do it anymore,” Price said. Price is now working full-time for Candy Fleet Corporation, an offshore vessel company and had been working there part-time while he was a firefighter.
He also plans to do some traveling with his wife and spend time with his grandkids, he said.
He is going to miss the camaraderie with his fellow firefighters and cooking for one another. “I’ll miss that the most, but I’ll see them every day,” Price said, adding that he plans to go work out in the fire department’s gym.