VINTON, LA (KPLC) - The Town of Vinton's fire chief is retiring after 50 years of fighting fires and helping with rescues and traffic accidents. It didn't take long for Jerry Merchant to prove himself as a volunteer firefighter. In 1967, he helped fellow townspeople fight a fire at what was then known as Vinton Negro School.
"We had the fire knocked down and I was behind the building," said Merchant. "A piece of glass fell and it cut my arm open. Somebody went and got the chief and brought him around there. He told me, 'you joined the fire department this morning'."
Merchant says he'll never forget a day in 1993 when a car full of naked members of a Texas church wrecked a car in town.
"After the car stopped, people started crawling out of it. This was a Grand Am. There were 20 people. No clothes."
Merchant says it's hard to watch people lose their children.
"Watching people in town, people you know, people on the interstate, Highway 90, people you don't know. They lose a child. It's terrible."
Especially pleased that he was part of the effort to improve Vinton's fire rating, which lowered property insurance rates.
The Town of Vinton has announced that Chris Vice, an assistant chief with the Vinton fire department, will be the new fire chief.