LYNN– He’s calling it a career, and retiring Fire Chief James McDonald knows exactly how long he has enjoyed serving the city.
“Forty years. Six months. Nineteen days, and 16 hours,” McDonald said on Friday as he greeted wellwishers crowding into his Western Avenue office.
Its walls are adorned with photos, including ones of the Great Lynn Fire of 1981, the blaze he helped fight four years after becoming a firefighter in 1977. Another photo proudly displayed shows McDonald shaking hands with former Vice President Joe Biden.
A photograph of him with one of his favorite crews he’s worked on at the department is another framed memory that brings back moments of the adrenaline- filled job McDonald called a career for so long.
“I love the camaraderie,” he said.
“At times it has been hard, it has been tough, but I’m still standing and that’s what is important.”
McDonald’s first assignment was at the Fayette Street station on Ladder One. Although he didn’t serve in the military, McDonald came into the department with a lot of Vietnam War veterans. He learned valuable lessons from them about adapting to fear.
“This is a fearful job. If you can’t get around that you won’t be effective,” he said.
A lot about firefighting has changed since he joined the department. From technology to the education level of new recruits, McDonald has watched the profession change but the friendships he made stayed strong.
“People become more than just colleagues. You form lifelong relationships and make personal friends.”
One of those friendships includes McDonald’s replacement, Lynn Fire District Chief Stephen Archer, who he expects to do an excellent job.
“Steve is a great person, but more importantly a great firefighter,” he said. “He deserves it.”
Archer will take over as chief on Sunday.
“It’s a gratifying feeling to be able to lead this department,” he said. “It’s a great department with a long, storied history.”
He will be sworn in as the new chief on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee said he looks forward to working with the new chief.
“I saw the Fire Department’s talent on my first day as mayor when there was a big snow storm and the fire on Broad Street,” he said. “I was impressed by the work they did.”
He praised McDonald for 40 years of service to the community where he’s done great work.
“Steve will fill that role and start a new chapter,” he said.
Thomas Grillo contributed to this report.