Denison Fire Rescue crews said goodbye to longtime engineer and paramedic Kelley Copley this week, who retired after 28 years of service with the department.

“You know it takes all kinds of personalities to make this place operate,” Assistant Chief Mark Escamilla said. “He’s always been on the lighter side of things, he brought a lot of humor and I think that was really good for our department. We truly appreciate everything he’s done here. He’s been a great employee and he served the citizens of Denison well.”

Before Copley began his career with Denison Fire Rescue, he spent years as a volunteer firefighter in Colbert, Oklahoma. Copley said he started out working a construction job but was approached by the city’s then-fire chief with an invitation to check out the station. And it was that offer, he said, which put him on the path toward his passion.

“I wandered down there, got to talking with the guys, got to playing with the equipment, though it was interesting and figured I’d try it for a while,” Copley said. “Thirty-five years later, here I am.”

Copley said that in his nearly four decades in the field he saw significant improvements in technology and, consequently, crews’ ability to successfully fight fires and save lives. And he said the demand for the department’s services has grown significantly in that time.

“The city of Denison, they make quite a few runs now,” Copley said. “When I first hired on, it was nothing to go 24 hours and never turn a wheel. Now, you’re lucky if you can go a couple of hours without turning a wheel. That’s just the increased workload the department has in this day and time.”

Despite the department’s busy schedule, Copley’s co-workers still found the time to honor him. On his last day at the station, crews threw Copley a party which included a sirloin steak dinner and a custom cake. And as a parting gift, the department presented him with a lever-action rifle, the stock of which was engraved with the department’s insignia, his name and his years of service.

“I’m going to miss the camaraderie, hanging out with the guys, having a good time and enjoying what I do,” Copley said.

And what Copley said he loved most about his job was the chance it gave him to help others, no matter who that might be.

“I don’t care if you’re saving the mayor or the lowest person on the street, you do your job as best you can,” Copley said. “And as long as the people that I helped have a fruitful life, then I’m happy.”

Copley said he left the department with many fond memories and that he planned to keep in touch with his fellow his Denison firefighters, whether they were veterans or newcomers.

“I highly encourage young men and women who want a rewarding career to get into the fire and EMS service,” Copley said. “Whatever you want, if you put in the effort, the education and the experience, you can get that out of it.”

With his retirement now before him, Copley said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and raising livestock on his land.

“I’ve felt good about what I’ve done, the people that I’ve helped and the way everything turned out,” Copley said. “I think I can walk away from it now and say, ‘I enjoyed that. Now let’s do something new.’”