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Firefighters honored for years of service

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Two local volunteer firefighters were honored in May for their 25 years of fire service.

Terry Richardson and John “J.P.” McCormick became volunteers in 1981. Richardson was a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom; McCormick, 41, repaired small engines.

Together, they joined the fire service so they could help out the community.

“Then it got into your blood,” McCormick explained.

The two newest members of the combined Pierce County Fire District No. 12 and Buckley Volunteer Fire Department didn't have to wait long for their first fire.

“We were told that if we came down, we could put our gear on and get on the truck,” Richardson said.

They did - and climbed onto the engine and hung on as it raced off of Sumner-Buckley Highway and on to Old Blessing Road.

With little training to their credit, they were told to not get off the truck until they were directed to by an officer; they did as they were told.

Richardson and McCormick stood by and watched fellow firefighters pull hoses off the truck and set up to fight the blaze.

“Nobody told us to get off,” Richardson explained. The chief took notice and yelled for them to pitch in. “We went around the building and put the wet stuff on the red stuff.”

It was that kind of commitment that earned high marks from East Pierce Chief Dan Packer.

“The word ‘dedication' comes immediately to mind,'” he said. “Just steady dedication - whether attendance at training, weekly drills or responding to calls - they both were there. These two folks were exceptional in that regard.”

In those days, the whole family was involved in the fire service; Richardson's husband, Ben, was also a volunteer. When calls came in during the night, a neighbor stepped in to help watch their children. And when crews returned exhausted and hungry after responding to a call, firefighters' wives made sure to have hot food ready.

Tending to the fires often became personal.

“The hardest part was that you knew nearly everyone when you went on a call,” McCormick said.

Richardson received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2006, in part for running the most calls of any volunteer at East Pierce that year.

Packer praised Richardson and McCormick for their longevity as volunteers.

“That's a long time to sustain that kind of dedication and commitment,” he said. “It was above the norm, without a doubt.”

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