Dorsey retires after 32 years as firefighter, police officer

Published 2:53 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mayor Earl Johnson presents Fire Chief Ethan Dorsey with a proclamation recognizing his dedication to the city.

Mayor Earl Johnson presents Fire Chief Ethan Dorsey with a proclamation recognizing his dedication to the city.

Ethan Dorsey has seen the day when he’d patrol the streets of Andalusia as a policemen with turnout gear in his car, respond to a fire, and go back to police work when the fire was out.

On Monday, the fire chief ended his full-time tenure with the city after 32 years.

“I started with the city in 1983 as a police officer,” Dorsey said. “Then in 1984, the city went to a Department of Public Safety where a police officer was certified as a firefighter, and later firefighters certified as police officers.”

Later, Dorsey transferred to the fire department, but still worked as a public safety officer.

“In the fire department, they’d call me sometimes and say they needed somebody to work 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.,” he said. “Put turnout gear in police car, fire, until a fire was out, then go back to policing.”

In the early 1990s, the departments were split. Dorsey chose to stay with the fire department.

“It was a bigger passion of mine,” he said. “I liked that type of work more. Either way you’re helping people, but the challenge of being able to go in and extinguish a fire and saving as much as you could was what I liked.”

When he reflects on the past 32 years, the most difficult fires where those that claimed lives.

“Over the years, we’ve had four or fires probably with fatalities,” he said. “Those are the ones most challenging and difficult to deal with.”

Dorsey was working as a fire inspector and investigator in 2003 when then Fire Chief Hubert Hughes retired.

“The mayor (Earl Johnson) put me in as interim chief, and appointed me as chief in 2004,” he said. “He stepped out and did something the city not done. I was the first African American department head city has ever had.

“The mayor has been great boss to me. He allowed me to do my job once I proved capable of doing my job,” Dorsey said. “If there was something I wanted to do some updates on, he never inserted himself in my job. I’ll tell anybody. He’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. Whatever I’ve done over the past 32 years, I’ve done what was right for the citizens, and the city.”

His proudest accomplishment is getting the city’s insurance rating for fire coverage lowered to a Class 4.

“That’s the lowest it’s ever been,” Dorsey said. “That was a good accomplishment. But I would be selfish if I didn’t say, without the guys in that department buying into my plans, the job would have been impossible to do. They were there with me, beside me, working as hard as anybody could possibly work.”

Dorsey said his decision to retire is related to health issues and medications he currently takes.

“I’m honest enough with myself to where I knew when I talked to mayor. I don’t feel I can do the job 100 percent. I don’t want to go to a fire, and wind up being a problem because I can’t get somebody out, or go in and do it without injuring myself.

“I decided it was time to let somebody else take over,” he said. “My guys will tell you, I’m one of the first ones to suit up, and I’m in there fighting fires as hard as anybody.”

There is a possibility that he’ll go back to the city on a part-time basis, primarily doing fire inspections. But for now, he’s going to continue the mechanic work he’s been doing in his off-time, and spend more time fishing. He said working on cars has been his hobby since he was 15.

He also enjoys playing dominos, and is a member of the Whatley Street First Baptist Church Men’s Chorus.

“Singing is something I love doing,” Dorsey said. “It’s a passion of mine, also.”

On hand for his retirement ceremony on Monday were his wife, Shekelia, and children Ethan, Donovan, Damon, and Kera. His mom, Elizabeth Dorsey, also lives in Andalusia.

Mayor Earl Johnson described Dorsey as a person “with a servant’s heart,” and said he has done a great job for the city.