NEW YORK — The longest serving battalion chief of the FDNY did his last tour Wednesday.
Battalion Chief Tom McCarthy got a standing ovation in Chelsea as he walked out one last time. Crews from multiple fire stations turned out for the final goodbye.
CBS New York’s Jennifer Bisram sat down with him hours before that special moment.
“Do you still remember the first day you got into [a fire truck]?” Bisram asked.
“Yeah, I was assigned to the Bronx and I was just covering slot for the night and I was working the 92 Engine. A run came in almost immediately,” McCarthy said.
That was 43 years ago. McCarthy, who is 64 years young, joined the FDNY in 1980.
“It’s something I’ve done for two-thirds of my entire life, so it’s just natural to come to firehouse,” he said. “I’ll miss the people I work with.”
In his exclusive interview with CBS New York, he recalled some scary moments while in the line of duty.
“Definitely trapped one time … Going through a small bathroom window and they were advancing the line, but the fire was coming out of two directions, so they couldn’t advance. I just had to hunker down because the heat was, you know, you just ball up and try to cover up as much as you can,” McCarthy said. “Other times, I got myself lost in search.”
He’s fought hundreds of fires and saved hundreds of lives during his tenure.
Holding back tears, the father of three who lives on Long Island says he’ll never forget his first fire as a chief — it was on 9/11.
“The end when they were asking for volunteers from all the guys who showed up, every hand went up. They all wanted to go in,” McCarthy said.
Friday, with great pride, he put away his gear and retired as the longest serving battalion chief in New York City.
“The fire service draws a different type of person. We draw the risk takers,” McCarthy said.
On his last day, firefighters from different firehouses stopped by Engine 3, Ladder 12, Battalion 7 in Chelsea to say thank you to McCarthy for being one of New York City’s bravest for over four decades.
“I hope I encouraged enough of the young guys to study, the young officers to move up. I hope I showed them a calm presence on the fire ground,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully I gave good advice … If not, I can’t do it over, so.”
So what’s next for the chief?
He says he won’t waste the time — he’ll put it to good use. He plans on doing volunteer work and spending more time with his family.
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