Local Fire Chief Retires After 56 Years

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WEST FORK (KFSM)-- After 50 years serving as fire chief, a local man was honored in a ceremony in Chicago for being the longest working fire chief in the nation, but he didn't stop there. He continued to work for 6 more years, and now, after 56 years, he's retiring.

When Mitch McCorkle was named the fire chief of West Fork, the city didn’t even have a fire truck.

“The same night they bought the fire truck they gave me the fire chief job because I was a mechanic,” McCorkle said.

He said the city bought a fire truck from Fayetteville that was broken down, but he fixed it, and after 56 years as chief, he has some stories to tell.

“I put bumper guards on six different pickups where we could push it up the mountain,” McCorkle said. “It didn’t have enough power to get up the mountain, but we’d get to a fire as quick with it as we get to with one with 500 or 600 horse power now.”

Now, that chapter is ending as he retires, and on Saturday (Feb. 27) more than 300 people came to honor him at his retirement ceremony.

McCorkle was honored with kind words and gift, but no one spoke more highly of him than the men who worked beside him.

One of those men was Mark Myers who will take over as the new fire chief.

“He’s been a mentor,” Myers said. “He’s been a father, grandfather. His leadership and knowledge that he’s taught us is second to none.”

Myers said he has big shoes to fill.

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After responding to more than 15,000 emergency calls and becoming the longest working fire chief in the nation, McCorkle said he ready to hang his hat, but he won’t be gone for good.

“I’ll still visit the fire department regularly,” McCorkle said. “I got to keep up with what they’re doing.”

McCorkle’s official retirement date is March 1st, which is also his 56th anniversary of being named fire chief.