2017-09-07 / Front Page

Final call for Chief Fred Forys

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com


Fire Chief Fred Forys has left the Atlas Township Fire Department after 34 years of service. 
Photo by Paula K. Schmidt Fire Chief Fred Forys has left the Atlas Township Fire Department after 34 years of service. Photo by Paula K. Schmidt ATLAS TWP. — A lot of water has been through the hose since Fred Forys joined the Atlas Township Fire Department, and he came up through the ranks over the years, serving as chief for the last ten, earning a lifetime of memories and experiences with a band of brothers that form permanent bonds.

“I don’t think they don’t realize it is more or less a full time…it’s more than that, you gotta come back and forth put things aside to make your guys happy… or a vendor. You have to work around their schedules,” he explained.

When retired from General Motors in 2007, then Township Supervisor Paul Hammond coaxed Forys into the job, saying he now had time to do the job, which according to the technical description calls for 20 hours a week, Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.


One of Fire Chief Fred Forys favorite moments was driving Bill Rausch’s Toby in the horse drawn carriage in the Good Times in Goodrich parade. 
Photo by Paula K. Schmidt One of Fire Chief Fred Forys favorite moments was driving Bill Rausch’s Toby in the horse drawn carriage in the Good Times in Goodrich parade. Photo by Paula K. Schmidt Of course anyone who’s ever held the post, including Forys, is going to admit it’s a great deal more than that, because good leaders feel commitment to managing what comes up— when it comes up and when you have a group of on-call people with various schedules, sometimes that takes some juggling.

Leaving town is always a risk too. Forys recalls heading up north with his wife recently, and many other occasions, where a call from home would scatter their plans to the wind and end up in a long quiet ride back to the department to take care of business. Like all first responders, the job description comes with a lot of sacrifice for the family, as well as the employee.

No two fires are ever the same, and every time he fought a fire, Forys said he learned something. He remembered in particular a factory fire in Grand Blanc many years ago where they had to use foam. They went in with Grand Blanc equipment to cover the burning vats with foam but just when they started to go out, the fire would reignite, blowing foam all over the place.

Forys then got dispatched to another call but returned when it turned out to be nothing and told then-Chief Jim Harmes he was going to try the foam attachment on the Atlas truck this time around.

“My guys that went in, they had never done this before. So I schooled them real quick on how we’re going to do this,” Forys explained. “And it just started working; put two foot of foam on top off these vats and just like that, the fire was out.

“That was the first time I ever used foam on a real fire to see how it really works. I had a couple new guys and they were amazed,” Forys said. “Just goes to show every fire you go on you're going to learn something on that fire—you're learning on every call; and then you just gotta retain it.”

Besides Harmes, Forys has worked with dozens of other officials over the years. Davison-Richfield Fire Department Chief Michael Wright said Forys has been an asset to the service and a great neighbor to them. “It doesn't matter what we had, he participated 100 percent,” Wright said. “From the time he got (on scene) until it was done—he never quit—he was just that type of guy.”

Wright added Forys’ retirement will be a loss to the fire service, but he hopes Forys now has the opportunity to enjoy his place up north. He said others in the service will miss him.

Grand Blanc Fire Chief Bob Burdette said teasingly, “Fred (aka Yosemite Sam) is a great fire chief, his smile (under the moustache) is going to be missed.”

Harmes said, “Fred is a good guy—very dedicated fire chief—always available, always there when we needed him. He's good people. Congratulations to him; he did a lot of good for the community.”

Atlas Township Supervisor Tere Onica stated she will appoint a succession team consisting of three local fire chiefs to review applications and interview candidates. Internal candidates will be considered before external candidates.

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