Wrentham Fire Chief Retires

Marjorie Turner Hollman
Jay McMorrow, retired Fire Chief.
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

Life-long Wrentham resident and retiring Fire Chief James (Jay) McMorrow is going to have to get some new shirts.
“I realized that everything I own says 'Fire' or something related,” he said. “Now that I’ve retired, I’m going to have to get some plain shirts.”
McMorrow, whose last day was June 30th, is still figuring out life after retirement from a job he has lived with and loved for nearly 40 years.
Working with the fire department has been a constant for much of McMorrow’s life. He qualified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) when he was twenty. He began serving with the fire department in 1979 when he became an auxiliary fireman. He became a call fireman, part-time in 1983, and in 1986 was hired full time with the Wrentham fire department. For the past eight years he has served as Wrentham’s fire chief, and was the deputy fire chief for 14 years before that.
McMorrow was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Hazardous Response Team and served on that task force for 24 years. He explained, “It started with us dealing with chemical spills, but these days we are dealing with fentanyl and other hazardous materials.”
He continued, “Massachusetts has one of the better programs—we have monthly training sessions. We work to limit the exposure of first responders to dangerous chemicals.”
Because of McMorrow’s experience over the years dealing with hazardous materials, he has been offered several positions in the private sector in that field. While not rushing to get back to work, he is not planning to simply pull up a rocking chair and withdraw from life. “I’m thinking about my options,” he said.
And what has kept him serving the townsfolk of Wrentham? McMorrow said without hesitation, “The love of the job. Every day is different, no two calls are alike, and no two situations are the same.”
He specifically pointed to things he’s loved about the job such as the challenge of the unknown, responding to calls, solving problems and overcoming challenges. Although McMorrow originally planned to study criminal law, he found it was not to his liking. Instead, he spent his career with the fire department, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Providence College in fire science.
While there was much to love about his work, McMorrow pointed to the human tragedy that all firefighters face as the hardest part of the job. He explained that Wrentham has five highways that intersect the town. “We get called out to help with a lot of car crashes—our team has gotten really skilled at using the ‘Jaws of Life.’” [Jaws of Life are used to extract crash victims from their smashed vehicles.]
As McMorrow reflected on his years of service, he recalled a time he was not feeling as good about his work. It was nine years ago and he had just been passed over for the chief’s position. He heard a call over the radio for a baby that was not breathing.
“I just happened to be right there, so I arrived first, pulled into the driveway and the mother brought her child right out to me. I was able to clear the child’s airway and get him breathing again.”
He continued, “The guys teased me that I went from zero to hero with two quick breaths.” But teasing is part of the job. And the truth was that McMorrow was in the right place at the right time, provided calm assistance, and knew just what to do. He was invited to the Massachusetts State House and was honored for his actions.
He reflected on situations when Wrentham firefighters were called on to provide mutual aid to other surrounding towns.
“One day I found myself on the back of a fire truck, driving to Worcester to assist, the day following the Cold Storage fire. Another time a tornado went through Brimfield, and we went out to help that same day. Those were pretty memorable experiences.”
When asked what the day-to-day life of a fireman is like, McMorrow smiled.
“I come from a large family, four sisters and two brothers. Being on the fire department is a lot like that. When anyone is having a bad day, you all know it!”
He continued, “In my mind I did well with the fire service. It offers great opportunities to better yourself. However, I am not going to miss the 24/7 being on call, then heading into a full day ahead. It happened all the time. No, I’m not going to miss that at all.”
Best of luck to you, Chief McMorrow. Job well done.