LONDON, Ky. (LEX 18) — 99 years ago, the London Fire Department was formed as a volunteer outfit.
Sunday, one year shy of its centennial, the department honored former chiefs who helped build its foundation.
Current and retired firefighters and their families gathered at the A.R. Dyche Cemetery in London Sunday to honor six former chiefs who are buried on the grounds.
"He loved the city of London," Fred Phelps said, speaking of his father, Gilmore. "And he sacrificed probably his working career for that."
Gilmore Phelps, a WWII veteran, joined the London Fire Department as a volunteer in 1936. He served as chief of the department from 1953 until 1989.
"He was totally unpaid and spent countless hours at the fire department," said his son, who also volunteered at the department.
While the service of firefighters in London has not gone unappreciated, Phelps said he does not recall any ceremonies such as the one held Sunday.
"It's been a volunteer organization all this time," he said. "They didn't have the funding here, so London is just coming into its own in the last twenty years."
While the position of chief has become a paid one, several speakers Sunday noted that the spirit of volunteerism is still very much embedded in the department.