50 years as a firefighter and no plans to retire | News

Ronnie Campbell has served his Lee County community as a firefighter for 50 years and the last 33 of them as chief of the Northview Fire Department.

And Campbell, 68, has no plans to retire or slow down.

“I still feel good,” Campbell said Thursday. “I still enjoy what I do. I’m not going anywhere.”

The fire service comes to Campbell naturally given that his father, Walter, helped organize the Northview Department in 1963.

“I rode with him for 10 years,” Campbell said. “Anytime he’d let me go, I’d go with him. Then, when I turned 18, I joined.”

Ironically, Walter Campbell served as assistant chief to his son for about two years.

“He wouldn’t take the chief’s job when the (previous) chief retired. I was put in that position,” Campbell said.

Did that put any strain on the relationship between father and son?

Nope, Campbell said.

“I worked for him for 25 or 30 years. I was in construction back then.”

Campbell said there was another reason he was drawn to be a firefighter.

“Little boys like to play with fire trucks. I haven’t grown up yet,” he said, breaking into laughter.

Through the years, Campbell has witnessed changes in the fire service. Fire departments do far more now than just fight fires, he said.

“Most of our calls now are wrecks or medical calls. We don’t have as many house fires as we did years ago,” he said.

That could be the result of fire prevention education efforts, something with which firefighters are being tasked.

“We do more fire prevention now,” Campbell said.

Another change isn’t one deemed a positive.

There’s a shortage of firefighters, especially those who serve as volunteers or work on a part-time basis, he said. Several years ago, it was nothing for a rural volunteer firefighter to leave his job to rush to a house fire.

“We don’t have people like that anymore,” Campbell said. “Now, they’re not allowed to leave work.”

Campbell attended Deep River School when all 12 grades were at the same location.

He graduated in the Class of 1971 and in 1972, married his wife, Daria. They have one son — who formerly worked in the fire service — and two granddaughters.

His family has been supportive through the years, putting up

with being called to duty at all hours.

“I have to give credit where it’s due,” Campbell said. “If you’re going to make it in the fire service, you have to have a supportive family.”

He worked with his father in construction until the elder Campbell had a heart attack and had to step aside.

Eventually, his son opened his own construction business. Campbell worked briefly in the fire service in Harnett County.

Now, Campbell is a paid firefighter, working at the station from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. He remains active and still drives one of the fire trucks on calls.

So, when is Campbell going to retire?

“I’ve been asked that question a lot,” he said. “As long as I feel good, doing my job and am physically able, I’ll keep going.”

Campbell said his son has

asked him about his retirement plans.

“My son’s been after me to retire and I said why? He said to get a hobby. I said I got a hobby. It’s too expensive and I can’t afford not to work and have a hobby,” Campbell said, breaking into laughter.

“I’ve got a friend who retired and picked up another job and is now working harder than before. He said, “Don’t retire, just stay where you are and keep going.’ ”

Campbell said he’ll when it’s time to hang up the turnout gear.

“When I get out of bed and dread going to work, it’s time to call it quits.”

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