ABOVE PHOTO: Former LFD Chief Gary Byrd digs out the space where a stone honoring and remembering a special group of firefighters now rests this morning.
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – “You don’t often hear of firefighters or police officers building their own buildings, but that’s what we did here in La Follette,” said former La Follette Fire Department Chief Gary Byrd. Before 1994, La Follette rented space for its firehouse. However, former LFD Fire Chief Wayne Gregg had an idea, but it took a lot of leg work.
VERY TOP PHOTO: Former La Follette Fire Chief Gary Byrd takes a moment to admire the end result of his idea. Byrd served the LFD from 1974 through 2015 serving as chief the final 14 years of his career.
Chris Lambdin makes sure all is level before the stone is set
This is the first of two stones that Byrd designed and worked with La Follette Monuments to make a reality.
Fire Station Number 2, across from Short-Redmond Ford, is located on property that was owned by the state and was the home of the local Tennessee Highway Patrol Office. When the THP moved out of the tiny building, Gregg lobbied the state to donate the land to the City of La Follette so it could build its own firehouse. Byrd said Gregg made several trips to Nashville to strike the deal.
Chris Lambdin (left) and Gary Byrd (right) set the sod in place around the stone as Chris wipes the stone clean (below).
Byrd goes on to say that Wayne (Gregg) didn’t stop there. “He went to Pete DeBusk, owner of DeRoyal Industries, and asked if he would donate a small piece of land next to his East La Follette plant to the city for a third firehouse.” The story goes that DeBusk personally came to La Follette, saw the desired piece of property and noticed a stream running through it. DeBusk not only donated the land for the cause, he also bought the tile to channel the stream.
The stone above is at Fire Station 2 with the one below at Fire Station 3
The result of Gregg’s foresight and persistent efforts paid big dividends for the La Follette Fire Department. It had its own Fire Station 2 and added a third firehouse to go along with its main firehouse at the corner of Beech and Tennessee.
Above is LFD’s current emblem. The previous two are below with the original one on the left.
Gone are Carroll, Jones, Love, McGill and Price. Still active are Eldridge, Hatmaker, Hutson, Pack and Seal. The others are retired.
Byrd said, “Five of the firefighters on the stone have passed away. Only five are still working. The rest are retired. Here on this 25th anniversary, I wanted people to know the history of who did this, built these buildings, because this is rare to see.” (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 08/15/2019-6AM)