Retiring Chief Gordon saw himself as “just one of the crew”
EVERETT — Fire Chief Murray Gordon’s boyhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot nearly came true.
He had already made it as an alternate to enter the Air Force Academy before they discovered he was color blind and had to disqualify him.
Fortunately, his cousin had become a Seattle firefighter a couple years earlier and, with the aid of some of Gordon’s neighbors who were also firefighters, they convinced the despondent 22-year-old Everett local to apply to his city’s fire department.
“They thought I had the makings of a good firefighter and would be a good match for the job,” Gordon said.
They were right.
It was the beginning of an illustrious career for Gordon that has spanned four decades and earned him the department’s top job of
fire chief on Jan. 17, 2001.
It seems especially fitting that on Jan. 20, 2017, the now 62-year-old Gordon is saying farewell to his beloved fire crews just a few days past the anniversary of that distinguished appointment.
Longtime firefighter Eric Hicks will be taking over as chief.
Gordon, a third-generation Everett resident, became an Everett firefighter in 1977 and was promoted to firefighter paramedic
in 1982. His emergency routes often meant sound-ing the sirens all the way to Harborview or the UW Medical Center. In 1990, he became a deputy chief and supervised paramedic and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) programs. By 1993, he was promoted again to assistant fire chief, then to captain.
“To have that experience, being a company officer in charge of a fire engine, that was really an honor,” Gordon reminisced. “It’s hard to call it a job.”
As the leader of the city’s fire department, he acknowledges facing some hard times.
“There have been big challenges, like the recession and having to make cuts,” said Gordon. “That was one of the most difficult times.”
“There were areas we had to cut back on. Those aren’t decisions a fire chief wants to make with respect to serving the community,” he said.
Now Gordon is proud to say the department has been able to get back some of those losses. At least 25 new firefighters have been hired in the last two years and Gordon has labored to improve the department in the areas of fire suppression, fire prevention, EMS, and enhancing the marine team, a combined team of firefighters and rescue personnel.
“Our territory border goes out into the bay,” Gordon explained. “Boaters call 911 and we respond. We started that in the last few years.”
Even as he is stepping down, he has made sure things are in place for adding more crew training in conjunction with Snohomish County.
“It’s a training consortium and came out of a recent meeting of 30 chief officers,” said Gordon. “We met to plan for the highest level of public safety. Everyone was engaged in how to regionalize our resources. We have firefighters who are members of the Snohomish County Hazmat team and we’re actively seeking true partnerships to build the best technical teams and also be cost-effective in our service.”
He has nothing but praise for the fireman who will be stepping into his shoes.
“Eric Hicks is the best fire marshal,” Gordon said, adding that Hicks “will do a phenomenal job.”
Once retired, Gordon hopes to check off a few things on his long-time bucket list, such as traveling more and attending a Little League World Series. With four kids and six grandchildren, refereeing football and driving the family to soccer games, he jokes that he is being trained to be a good taxi driver next.
There is also no regret about that disappointed dream to become a fighter pilot. Gor-don succeeded in acquiring a private pilot’s license a long time ago and has flown quite a bit over the Puget Sound landscape.
Summing up his career legacy, Gordon said, “I feel really strongly that it’s not about one person. If I had a close call, others did too. If I saved a life, others saved lives too. It’s about the team, that’s who I want to celebrate. I’m proud of the firefighters and that I could spend my entire career in one department. They are extremely well-trained.”
“In the department, there’s nothing you ever do alone. You always work as a team,” Gordon said.
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