Jacksonville fire station celebrates major milestone: 110 years
Retired captain recalls how firefighters 'took him in,' inspired his career
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From the city's Great Fire of 1901 and the Great Depression to two world wars and the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Jacksonville's Fire Station No. 2 has stood witness to 110 years of history.
The North Main Street station in Springfield is the oldest running station in Florida.
“Unlike other fire stations, people that get assigned here stay their whole career,” Fire Chief Kurt Wilson said. “We are talking 30 to 40 years in one fire station. They promote, they stay or they leave and come right back.”
One of those who made a career at the station was Bill Langley, who retired as a captain in 2017 after what many would consider a legendary run.
But it's how that run started that will tug at your heartstrings.
“The day I walked in here was the luckiest day of my life,” Langley said. “It truly did change my life.”
Langley (pictured with a fellow firefighter during his career) was 16 years old when he was first “adopted” into the Fire Station No. 2 family.
“They kind of took me in, and I tell people all the time -- I came from a broken family, and this is where my foundation in life started,” Langley said. “From that point forward, they made sure I went to school, made sure I had clothes, made sure I was fed, made sure I went to fire school and learned a trade.”
Langley said his mentor was Fire Station No. 2 Capt. Billy Ray Sands, who told him that if he worked hard enough, one day he could take Sands' job -- and that's just what Langley did.
Langley (pictured below with Sands) said he never wanted to leave his fire family.
“I never wanted to take a chief's exam. I wanted to stay right here, and I spent my entire career right here,” Langley said. “There's really not a 'Brady Bunch' family out there anymore. This is our 'Brady Bunch' family, so if we saw a family in the community that needed something -- not even just on holidays -- we did it for them.”
The new captain, Jason Lutzen, said the people make the fire station what it is.
Langley would agree.
“I miss it every day,” he said. “I really do.”
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and State Attorney Melissa Nelson attended Monday's 110th anniversary celebration and praised the department's personnel for their years of service.
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