PLANT CITY A fire captain who was known for leading by example has answered his last emergency call.
Capt. Ron Hall retired Wednesday after more than 20 years in firefighting. His fellow employees threw a party to say farewell to the 55-year-old.
“You represented everything honorable and everything noble about being a firefighter,” Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel said.
Hall and several of his colleagues broke down during the retirement ceremony where he was presented with a souvenir fire ax.
“He’s more than a leader, he’s a mentor,” said Capt. James Wingo, who choked back tears. “I’m where I’m at because of him.”
“Words can’t describe him,” added Jeff Griggs, who is on the verge of being promoted to captain.
Firefighters tend to develop strong friendships because they spend 24 hours together every third day.
Hall first became a firefighter in Polk County after spending several years in private business. He served as a volunteer, then became a paid firefighter in Polk for three years, starting in 1991.
In 1994, he joined what is now Plant City Fire Rescue and worked his way up through the ranks. He was named a captain about 10 years ago.
His career includes fighting the two largest fires in recent Plant City history: a 1997 blaze that heavily damaged a Del Monte Tropical Fruits banana processing plant on Sydney Road and a 2005 arson that destroyed nearly a block of historic buildings on Collins Street.
He was also on board when Fire Rescue in 2001 added emergency medical services, which eventually expanded to include advanced life support.
Emergency Medical Services Chief James Wilson said Hall adapted to all the changes and added responsibilities.
“He honestly cares about doing a good job. You know he is always going to do his best, no matter what,” he said.
Besides day-to-day supervision of firefighters, Hall headed up Fire Rescue’s role each year in providing medical and other services at the Florida Strawberry Festival, Wilson said.
Wilson said Hall has a reputation as a popular supervisor who earned the respect of the firefighters and paramedics under his command. Wilson said he’ll miss him for a lot of reasons, including his sense of humor.
“He’s always happy and can turn an otherwise gloomy day or situation into a good one. You can’t fake that. It’s the kind of caring and compassion that you don’t typically find,” Wilson said.
Firefighter-paramedic Britt Davis said Hall became both supervisor and mentor when Davis joined fire rescue six years ago.
“He takes you under his wing and shows you the ropes,” Davis said. “He’s almost like a father working with his children.”
Hall’s first priority, now that he’s retired, is to spend a lot of quality time with his family, particularly with his wife Sherry. First up: A long awaited road trip.
“We want to do a little traveling for the first year. We want to visit spots in the lower 48 states and spend time together.”