FULTONDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — Larry Adams was out of work.
Adams, who grew up in Tarrant, had spent the Vietnam War out of the action in Washington state, where he fixed guns onto helicopters. Getting back home to Alabama in 1972, Adams had taken the civil service exam and had applied to the Birmingham Fire Department, the police department and the sanitation department.
“The fire department called me first,” said Adams, assistant chief of the Fultondale Fire and Rescue.
That call led to a firefighting career that has lasted over 50 years. Recently, Adams was honored by the Alabama Fire College Personnel Standards Commission with a resolution commending his years of service, first to Birmingham Fire, then as a firefighter at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and his work with the Fultondale Fire Department.
“That’s just because I’m old,” Adams joked when asked about getting the award.
Fultondale Fire Chief Justin McKenzie, on the other hand, feels the award is long overdue for the firefighter who got the nickname “Crazy” for the way he would fight fires, from one time walking a ledge 20 stories high in to fight a fire to his love of motorcycles.
“His service is tremendous,” McKenzie said. “He’s an extremely selfless man who’s done so much for the city.”
Adams’ own history with the Fultondale Fire Department goes back to 1978, when his house caught on fire. As firetrucks arrived, Adams went to work, grabbing a hose and putting out the fire alongside the other firefighters.
“When that happened, he wanted to make sure this department was trained and ready to respond,” McKenzie said. “He ended up coming on as a volunteer fire fighter.”
“I had been through the schools and routine,” Adams said. “When they said ‘We need someone there who needs what they’re doing, I said’ ‘Ok, I reckon.’ And I’ve been there ever since.”
Adams would continue working part-time for Fultondale, even when he was still working in Birmingham. By the time he retired from Birmingham in 1994, he went to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth as assistant fire chief with the 117th Air Refueling Wing. Even through that, Adams continued to volunteer with Fultondale.
In 2014, Adams retired from the airport, but still works at the Fultondale Fire Department as assistant chief.
“When it was still part-time, he was running 90-100% of the calls, which was about 2,000 a year,” McKenzie said. “Now that we’re full-time, he volunteers and we’re up to 2,400 calls.”
Now 72 years old, Adams said he still loves being a firefighter. For him, it’s in his blood.
“It’s never the same thing twice in a row,” he said. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job, where you sit at a desk and do stuff. You’ll never know what you’re going to run into.”
McKenzie is glad to have Adams still on board.
“When he’s through fighting, it will be a loss,” McKenzie said.
As far as Adams is concerned, the day he’ll quit being a firefighter is when he either dies or is no longer able.
“Might as well keep going,” he said. “I don’t have anything else to do.”