Butte County Fire Chief George Morris retiring after 40 years
OROVILLE — After 40 years of fighting fires, Butte County Chief George Morris Jr. is retiring.
He said his retirement has nothing do with the county budget or the economy. His decision was based on revolving his life around his family, he said.
“This is a job that requires a lot of attention,” he said. “Over the years, sometimes I gave more attention to it than I was able to give my family. It’s time to turn that around.”
He was 17 when he was encouraged by his father to look into working with the Division of Forestry.
“Basically my dad, who worked for PG&E, had a lot of contacts with the Division of Forestry at the time.”
Morris, 57, joked his father’s motivation was more about getting him out of the house for the summer.
“Once I started doing that, I realized this is a job that I’d like to make a career,” he said, adding that the encouragement from his fire supervisor, the fire captain and the fire apparatus engineers helped him decide to stay in the firefighting business.
Morris was hired on permanently two years later. He served with the department for 38 years and served during 40 fire seasons. The state department has since changed its name a few times and is now known as Cal Fire.
Cal Fire and the Butte County Fire Department are interconnected agencies. Morris is a chief with Butte County Fire. When Cal Fire took over Paradise’s fire department, he became the Paradise fire chief as well.
He is also chief of Gridley’s and Biggs’ fire departments.
“I have valued those relationships my entire career and I have enjoyed that job immensely,” he said.
He had some advice for up-and-coming firefighters.
“I would tell them they have to work hard if they want this job,” he said. “It’s not a simple matter of showing up at the station and getting hired.”
He said the department often interviews 600 candidates for 10 available jobs. Candidates need to have the correct training and education to get a real shot at a firefighter job.
“Anything you can do to make yourself stand out would be helpful,” he said.
Because it is such a difficult job, he warned incoming firefighters, “You’re not going to get out without a few dings to your back or neck or whatever. That’s one reason why many of our guys retire a little younger than the average person,” he said. “You can’t do what we do and not be a little stoved-up at the end of your career. There’s lots of heavy lifting.”
He cautioned new firefighters about the dangers of the job.
“You have to be aware of your surroundings, be well trained and pay attention,” he said. “That’s how you stay safe.”
Morris will retire on Dec. 27.