This year marked a significant milestone for a Clare County firefighter.
This is Lt. Jerry Bridges’ 60th year as a firefighter.
His impressive career has spanned several departments across the state.
It is perhaps the unlikeliest way to start what would turn into a 60 year firefighting career,
But in 1962, Jerry Bridges was working a part-time job at a funeral home in Holt, Michigan.
In those days, the funeral home also ran the local ambulance; teaming up with the fire department.
“One day, one of the guys said hey, how’d you like to come over and be on the fire department, I says, nah, I don’t think so, well why don’t you come down to one of our meetings and meet some of the guys and I says ok I can do that. Half the fire department I had already met because they was running the ambulances, that night before I left, I was signed up to be on the fire department. Little did I know where that would lead,” said Jerry.
It would lead Jerry to eight years with the Holt Fire Department, before moving to the city of Wyoming Fire Department in 1970.
Then it was off to the City of Kentwood in 1989 before being hired as chief in south haven in 1993.
After a retirement from career departments, Jerry was back at it with a volunteer force near Allendale.
“I told my wife the only way we’re going to get out of here, get out of the fire service, is for me to retire and move where nobody knows me,” laughed Jerry.
So Jerry and his wife moved to Farwell, where he promptly joined the Surrey Fire Department before joining his current fire department in Lincoln Township.
“Being in the fire service is unlike anything else. Being in the fire service, it’s a way of life,” said Jerry.
Jerry was honored for 60 years of service this summer and he’s already looking forward to year 61.
“To me, it’s a way of serving my community, giving back to the community for everything I’ve gotten from the community and when you save somebody out of a fire, as a citizen in your community, you don’t forget that, they don’t forget it, being a firefighter in a community, matters,” said Jerry.