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James Moss

Posted on: December 30, 2021

James Moss Gives 50 Years of Service

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Very few people stick with a job for twenty years and fewer stay for thirty. What if we don’t you about someone that has worked as a volunteer for 50 years. Well, there is a man who has been a volunteer fire fighter in Early for 50 years!

James Moss began to volunteer as a firefighter for Early once he graduated from high school after a buddy of his had him join him on a couple calls. He says that from that moment, he was hooked.

“It was 1971, but I can’t tell you what month, it’s been a while.” said James.

Let’s paint the picture. It’s 1971, President Nixon is in office, the Baltimore Colts had defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V earlier that year. People are driving around in their VW Beetles while listening to “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison and young James Moss is sitting in his home on 8th street in Brownwood at 18 years of age. The phone rings and James answers the phone to hear Fire Captain Brian Chambers’ wife on the other line.

“She used to say, ‘Mr. Moss, we have a house fire on Lucas ...’ and it used to always crack me up how chipper she was, calling about a house fire.” James said.

Not long after, the fire department received its first notification system. Each fire fighter had a separate phone in their home with a dedicated private number. The phone would actually ring constantly until being picked up, making it one of the most effective alarm clocks to date. James says that of all the improvements that he’s seen over the years, the fire notification system has to be on the top of the list.

“Back then, Hermon Lock was our Fire Chief and the phone would ring, continuously without stopping and at the same time, we would hear the sirens go off.” said James.

The continuously ringing phone was actually a joined call and when someone dialed the number to report a fire, every fire fighter’s phone rang at the same time. However, the moment someone answered the phone, the caller would deliver the information. So, firefighters needed to rush to the phone as to not miss any of the vital information.

“We were actually told by our chief to wait a certain amount of time before answering the phone in order to give people time to get to the phone so that they wouldn’t miss any information.” said James. “The best thing that ever happened was the pager.”

The pager was given to the volunteer firefighters around 15 years ago and it allowed for everyone to be notified of a fire at the same time right away. Today, most of the volunteers use their smartphone for notifications but James and a few others continue to use the pager and volunteers can be alerted no matter where they are.

James says “That’s just the biggest and most important upgrade that’s been made. It allows us to have faster response times.”

It’s not only the phone system that has seen some upgrades over the years. Anyone who has been in Early for just a few years can tell you that constant upgrades occur. Currently the Early Fire Department has two engines, a 3,000-gallon tanker, 3 brush trucks, a rescue truck and a mule but how does that compare to 1971.

“Back then we had one engine and a civil defense Jeep that we converted into a brush truck.” said James. “And back when I started, if you didn’t make it to the fire station quickly, you got left behind volunteers were quick to jump in and we were actually at the peak of our volunteerism.”

James says he’s seen volunteerism change from when he first started. He says that volunteering was at its peak and now you don’t see people volunteering to be fire fighters or much of anything else these days.

“There’s too many liabilities and people asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ Say we have 20 active volunteers, well, only 10 are really active and only 5 of them will come right away. My family can attest to me missing out on several family events and important moments over the last 50 years because of my volunteering.”

Luckily the fire department has begun to employ full time firefighters which greatly aids in this issue and James says that although the station has seen a dip in volunteering, they still remain well above where they were when he started. Response times are faster, equipment is better, the support from the community is and has always been there and there’s also been more support from the City Council and Administration over the last several years.

“Tony Aaron and the Mayor (Bob Mangrum) are totally behind us. Chad Hill has gone after several grants since he’s been the chief and from that we have seen new tankers, new engines, new rescue and more.”

Fifty years is a long time and there has to be a reason that someone decided to stay in a position or with a volunteer group or anywhere for that long. Well, what is James’ reason?

“Just helping; giving back to the city. I just enjoy doing this and you can’t understand that when you’re in the background watching trucks going into the smoke while fighting a fire. It’s the type of help that when you’re done, you’re totally exhausted but you feel good because you know you’ve been a part of something that’s helped someone else.”

“There’s no number of words that can express appreciation to James Moss for his commitment to the Early Volunteer Fire Department and the citizens of Early, Texas.  He has giving up time with his family and at times has worked himself to complete exhaustion for no pay and at sometimes nothing more than a thank you and a shake of a hand for a job well done.  He did this all not for money or fame, but out of his desire to serve others.  What James has given to the city will forever be remembered and we will always be thankful for his commitment.” said Early City Administrator Tony Aaron.

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