September 12, 2010 by wcobserver
West Fork-Fire Chief Mitch McCorkle traveled to Chicago last week with eight others to receive international recognition for his 50 years of service as West Fork’s Fire Chief.
Chief McCorkle was recognized among approximately 2500 attendees from 21 countries at the International Association of Fire Chief’s annual Fire Rescue International conference. Chief Jack Parow, President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs presented him with a certificate in recognition of his service.
He traveled to the conference in a 15-passenger van with his wife, “Henri,” Steve Harrison, Assistant Fire Chief and Assistant Chief, Central EMS and his wife Janice, Mayor Jan Throgmorton, Ann Upton, who serves as a volunteer fire fighter, John Luther, Department of Emergency Management, Chief Mickey Jackson, retired Fayetteville Fire Chief, and Chief Becky Stewart, Central EMS.
McCorkle, now 76, is believed to be the longest serving active fire chief in the nation, said Harrison.
“I believe 50 years speaks for itself,” said Harrison who has served on the West Fork Fire Department for 29 years. I don’t know of a time I’ve been around him when he didn’t discuss what would benefit the fire department and the community as a whole.”
“They honored him for over his 50 years of service. He made us proud.” said West Fork mayor, Jan Throgmorton.
McCorkle became West Fork’s first and only fire chief in 1960 when West Fork’s city council appointed him and agreed to purchase a 1939 Ford fire truck from Fayetteville’s fire department for $1000.
“You don’t start off as fire chief, but I did,” Chief McCorkle said. He joked that he suspects he was appointed because the fire truck was “broke down and needed fixing.”
West Fork’s fire department is still staffed with volunteers just as it was 50 years ago, but has grown from 10-12 volunteers and one 1939 Ford fire truck to 40 volunteers and 14 vehicles under his direction. Chief McCorkle is quick to credit many other volunteers for their assistance in getting grants for trucks and other equipment.
When asked what keeps him going after so many years, Chief McCorkle, smiles and says, “I don’t’ really know. I just always need to help someone who needs help. I don’t go on too many calls, anymore.”
Harrison says many older citizens still expect to see him when they call. “It makes a big difference when they see a face they recognize at their time of need. Most know Mitch…he comes in and they recognize him and it helps them.”
“He’s been instrumental to a number of people, myself included, being in emergency services…EMT , fire, paramedic or police officer,’ Harrison said.
“It’s nice to see someone recognized for their life’s dedication,” said Throgmorton.