By Wendy Holdren
Beckley Fire Department is saying goodbye to one of its longest tenured firefighters in the department’s history.
After serving for 39 years, Capt. Gary Raines is retiring.
“Gary means a lot to the guys,” Chief Billie Trump said. “It’s really bittersweet. We’re sad to see him go, but we’re happy he’ll be able to enjoy his retirement.”
Trump said although Raines has been one of the longest tenured firefighters, he was always the first to embrace new ideas.
“He’s seen lots of changes, but he was never hesitant about new technology or new equipment,” Trump said. “He was always the first to learn and teach the others.”
Raines said he joined the Beckley Fire Department when he was 23 years old and he received his firefighter training in-house.
“We had really competitive testing. We were the most tested group to date that was hired.”
He said he was hired along with six other candidates back in 1974 when Station No. 3 on Eisenhower Drive was brand new.
“I’ve been looking at an old black and white photo in the shift commander’s office. I’ve seen a much younger person, kind of a hippie-like guy. I can’t say I was a pretty guy,” Raines said, laughing.
In his old picture he said he was wearing wire-rimmed glasses and sporting some ’70s-style mutton chops.
“Some of the guys in that picture have passed on, so I’m kind of the historian and I will continue to be. I want to continue to be abreast of things and stay in the loop.”
Raines said he wanted to thank his wife, Patricia, for supporting him and his career throughout the years.
“I want to brag on her, about how supportive she’s been, with the holidays and 24-hour shifts and times you get called out of home. If you didn’t have your family’s support, you’d be miserable in a job like this.”
He said his entire family has been supportive of his career and they have taken great pride in him being a firefighter, and then even more so when he advanced to shift captain.
He and Patricia have three children, Kristi, Sean and Jeff, all of whom are college-educated.
Kristi and her husband Clark McCormick live close by and have three children, Mason, Wyatt and Levi.
Sean and his wife Deborah live in Christiansburg, Va., and Jeff and his wife Christine live in Woodbridge, Va. Jeff and Christine recently had a daughter, Charlotte, who was born in August.
Raines said he’ll definitely be spending some time with his grandchildren during his retirement.
“I’ll visit my family and participate in church activities and I’ll visit with friends.”
He said he will spend more time with the Glade-Pinch Trout Association — “They’re a fine bunch of people.” Raines said this group helps stock Glade Creek with trout.
He also said he plans to ride his four-wheeler more often, especially at Burning Rock.
“I just want to say thank you to the City of Beckley for hiring me many years ago. It’s been a great career.”
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