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Flame burns down after 40 years of firefighting

Paul “Pauly” Whiteside was a volunteer fire fighter in River Falls for over 40 years.

Since Paul "Pauly" Whiteside started working as a black helmet, or a "regular firefighter," said Fire Chief Scott Nelson, many things have changed. Now one more thing will; Whiteside has retired after 40 years and six months of service to the River Falls area.

"I just thought it was time for me to retire," he said. "It's a young man's game. Fire is dangerous"

River Falls is serviced by a paid, on-call fire department that is funded by the city. When Whiteside first started, the township was responsible for providing their equipment.

As a result, they fashioned old vehicles into fire trucks and tenders, or tanks of water. Whiteside said at one time the department was using an old Army jeep as a fire truck.

"(Now), they are designed specifically for a purpose," said Doug Rudesill, a River Falls volunteer firefighter who started in 1986, "where then you just modified a truck to fit the needs."

Instead of the siren to call firefighter to a scene, their pagers do - something that Whiteside said he still is not used to putting on in the morning.

What has not changed is the irregular hours that he served.

"We're always on call and my wife and my kids are always patient," he said. "I always drop everything and run out on a fire call."

He said he remembered one Christmas day he was notified of a fire and that "it was really neat where they didn't give me any problems leaving for a fire call."

Nelson said what makes Whiteside unique is his dedication to his role.

"If you needed him, he was here and he made a very big percentage of the calls," Nelson said. "It's amazing that someone would do this for 20 years, much less 40."

"Longevity is from enjoying what you're doing," said Mike Moody, River Falls Fire Department's assistant chief, "enjoying the people that you're working and good treatment by the city and the public and the people that you need to have supporting the program for it to work."

"I think the people of River Falls are really lucky," said Nelson, "to have not just Pauly, but a whole group of dedicated guys and women who are on this department."

Read more about Paul and his firefighting history in the June 13 River Falls Journal.