Tampa Burns: A Living History of the Tampa Fire Department
The Tampa Firefighters Museum has partnered with Creative on Main Street to create an oral history video on the Tampa Fire Department. Stay tuned to this page for regular updates on the project, and the grand reveal of this professionally produced video which will help preserve our history for years to come!
On November 11th, 2019 we had several retirees, including some ‘senior’ retirees, join us at the studio. The Emmy Award-Winning team of documentary producer/writer Lynn Marvin Dingfelder and director/editor Larry Wiezycki guided the interviews. We heard some great stories about big fires, station life, and the changes that have occurred within the department over the past decades. Just has the City has grown and evolved so has the fire department. In some ways we discovered the history of Tampa Fire Department was influenced by the community and, at times, the community was influenced by the department.
George Gonzalez who retired in 1979 spoke about firefighter injuries and improvements in protective gear. Herb Shoun spoke of the Fire and Police Pension and how it grew to the financially healthy and self-sustaining program it is today.
Tampa retired Captain Mike Morris spoke of life on the Tampa fireboat. There was a time when the Port of Tampa was protected by crews who lived on and maintained the fireboat.
Mayor Dick Greco who led the city twice, once in the 1960’s then again in the 1990’s shared stories of the fire department and the importance of having a professional and well equipped department.
Ron Mason was hired in 1950. He went on to become fire chief and then after retiring he was on city council. His brother Steve Mason was hired in 1962 and retired as a Rescue Division Officer. These two men reminisced about developing the nationally recognized paramedic services in Tampa. They also reflected on some of the Tampa fire stations that are no longer in service.
Tom Forward began his service with Tampa Fire Department in 1983. He rose to the rank of Fire Chief before recently retiring. He addressed some sensitive topics such as the toll some of the emergency responses takes on rescuers, especially those alarms that involved seriously injured children. He also spoke to leading the department through major events such as the Republican National Convention and a Super Bowl.
Mechy Wright was the first female firefighter hired by Tampa in 1978. Her story of deciding to join the department and the challenges she faced is interesting and powerful.
Holly Boggs was hired the same time as Mechy Wright. The career of the two ladies took different paths. Holly spent most of her career in the rescue division responding to a variety of emergency calls. Mechy’s career led her into the Fire Marshals office where she was responsible for fire and life safety and fire cause investigations.
Jamie Urso spent many years working as an arson investigator. His stories of station life and camaraderie gives life to the many different people who made up Tampa Fire Department.
Todd Spear rose through the ranks serving mostly in fire and arson investigation. He retired as the Fire Marshal. Todd is one of the core group of fire department members who helped found and grow the Tampa Firefighters Museum.
For more information on our Living History Project, contact us through the link on our website.