HOME TOWNSHIP — When Randy Linton signed up as a junior firefighter at age 17, he had no idea more than four decades later he would be fire chief in his own hometown.
As a youth, he decided to try out firefighting duties in 1971, tagging along with his firefighter uncle and helping burn off old grass in the springtime. When Linton turned 18 years old, he signed on as an official firefighter. He ended up staying with the department for 41 years, the last 24 years as fire chief.
Linton officially retired last week. A community open house is being held in his honor from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Edmore VFW.
“I’ve had a good run, but it’s time for somebody else,” Linton said.
Linton, the son of former Home Township Supervisor Robert Linton,was born and raised in Edmore and graduated from Montabella High School. He is the longest running fire chief in the township’s history, which dates back to the 1920s. He also worked as a first responder for Montcalm County, was the first president of the Montcalm County Fire Chiefs Association and remains a member of the Montcalm County Firefighters Association Honor Guard.
Linton has responded to his share of emergency situations over the years — some with better-than-expected endings, others that left him somber.
“We had one, oh, it’s been probably 15 years ago. We had a house fire and it also involved a barn on the side of it,” he said. “One of the horses got burned pretty bad and they had to out it down. For some reason that hit me pretty hard. It was somebody’s animal and they had to put it down. There wasn’t anything anybody could have done.
“We had one north of Edmore where a beekeeper had a storage building on fire,” he added. “We ended up stopping that. There was a considerable amount of damage, but we saved most of it. It was rewarding.”
The Home Township Fire Department purchased two pumpers under Linton’s guidance, as well as superior air packs and other progressive improvements to equipment and technology.
“We’ve had a lot of good stops over the years, but that’s because we’ve got a lot of good people,” said Linton of the township’s 20 volunteer firefighters. “I’m just one link in a chain and the chain has to work together. We’ve had a great department and I’m very proud of our department. I was just fortunate to work with them and lead them and guide them.”
Linton will continue to work for HiGrade Materials of Greenville from the Six Lakes branch, where he has worked for the past three decades. He plans on using his new downtime from firefighting to spend more time with his family, including his wife, Carol, as well as more recreational activities, such as restoring antique farm tractors.
Linton said his only regret as fire chief is not being able to see an expansion of the fire barn. Architectural plans were drawn up for a new facility, but voters turned it down.
“Eventually we’ll be able to get that project done, I hope,” he said. “We’ve outgrown our facility.”
Home Township Police Chief Tim Irwin will serve as interim fire chief for the time being, with the assistance of Rich DeHate as assistant fire chief. Irwin has worked alongside Linton for the past four decades with the Home Township Fire Department.
“He brought the department forward during his time here,” Irwin said. “Being a volunteer firefighter, and especially fire chief takes up a lot of your time. He’s certainly going to be missed.”