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OC Fire Captain Gary Green’s Retirement Marks End of an Era

first_imgBy Tim KellyAsk soon-to-be-retired Ocean City Fire Department Captain Gary Green what he will miss most after 35 years on the job, and there is no hesitation.“I’ll miss the guys (and women, his co-workers) the most,” he said. “I enjoy helping people at one of their toughest times, and I enjoy working the fires.  But the people I work with have become like a second family.”That is high praise, as Green’s actual family represents three generations of public service in Ocean City and two generations with the fire department. His dad, Willard, worked 41 years as an Ocean City Firefighter, rising to the rank of Deputy Chief.“You have to understand, Gary always knew he wanted to be a firefighter and he lived it with his Dad before he ever became one,” current Fire Chief Jim Smith said. “Growing up in town, there was a fire bell in Gary’s house.  If there was a fire anywhere on the island at any time, Gary knew about it.”Green, 55, who lives in Linwood these days, added his own legacy to the family tradition, working many big fires on the island and seeing numerous changes in his field.“When I started out, most of the fires were real wood buildings,” he said. “They burned longer and we worked harder.  Today, because buildings are so different, the fires move a lot faster, they are hotter and the materials are more toxic.”He said response times are more critical today because a building is liable to be fully involved even if the equipment and crews arrive in less than 10 minutes.“Sometimes all it takes that amount of time for the building to be unsafe to go inside.”Green in action fighting a blaze at the former Bellevue Hotel on 8th Street.An Ocean City High School graduate who played basketball for four years and also ran track, Green was just 20 years old when he started out as a probationary firefighter and it didn’t take him long to get a taste of the gig. A massive fire at the Center Court Apartments, better known to many as The Purple Pussycat, was the first large blaze he helped bring under control.Over the years there were many others, he said, with the Village Theatre on the Boardwalk and the Bellevue Hotel on 8th Street downtown among the standouts.Green also became well-known as the face of the frequent drawbridge malfunctions on the old 9th Street Causeway before it was replaced.  In the summertime, the bridge sometimes would expand in the heat and become stuck in the upright position.  It was Green’s job to lead the crew onto the bridge and soak it with fire hoses, allowing the metal to cool enough for the bridge to be lowered again.In recent years, he has been in charge of the Engine #2 fire headquarters at 29th Street and West Ave.  But that only tells a small part of what he has meant to the Department.“We will go on, but Gary’s retirement leaves a big void,” Chief Smith said. “He is a guy everybody leans on for his experience and his knowledge of the Department, the City, and the way things should be done.”Smith has worked with Green, a 25-year veteran, for his entire career.“Gary was the longest serving member of the department, and he might have a different opinion than I did from time to time. But he always held true to rank and perceptions of the other people around him.  If something bothered him, he would take me aside and tell me.  I always appreciated that.”“Gary’s commitment to the Department and to firefighting always took priority”, the Chief said. “He has no ego. He wears his heart and his dedication to the job on his sleeve.  Guys will do anything he asks them to do because it won’t be anything he hasn’t done or is still doing himself.  The younger (firefighters) look up to him.  If Gary is working that hard, the younger guys are motivated to work just as hard.  Gary’s not afraid to get in there and get dirty.”A few years ago, Green went into a burning apartment building and pulled out an unconscious man. Another time, working with Emergency Management Services personnel, he helped bring a heart attack victim back to life on what turned out to be the man’s 50th birthday.“He lived, died and was brought back to life all on his 50th birthday,” Green said. “That was one of the most memorable calls I was ever on.”Gary Green provides a dry ride for a young student across a flooded street.Green’s retirement means the last member of his family is finally leaving service to the City.His grandfather, Alvan, started the family tradition as a laborer back in the 1920s, and rose to become Superintendent of Public Works. Three sons, Bill, Julius and Green’s dad all worked in Public Safety: Julius and and Willard with the Fire Department and Bill with the Police.Gary’s brother Brian is a 27-year vet of the Fire Department, and his cousin Julius Jr., “Jules”, is a 30-year employee of the Recreation Department.Collectively, the Green family has devoted more than 210 years of public service to the City.And lest anyone think about nepotism, don’t go there. The jobs are Civil Service and the Greens simply scored high on the tests.In addition to his years of experience, Smith said he will miss Gary equally as a friend.“With Gary, what you see is what you get.”Gary with wife Kim Green.Gary’s wife, Kim, has been a nurse at AtlantiCare for 26 years. They have two grown children, Lexi, 25, a teacher in the Philadelphia public schools, and Patrick, 22, who works in finance at a North Jersey corporation.So what does the future hold for Gary Green?“I have plenty of projects to work on around the house; I’ll relax for a while and then see what I might do (for a retirement gig) in the future.” Captain Gary Green in his natural element, in front of an Ocean City fire engine. last_img read more