By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s the end of an era today at the Philadelphia Fire Department, as longstanding fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers retires.

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It’s the end of a remarkable career that began forty years ago upon his graduation from Class 143 of the Philadelphia Fire Academy.

Ayers began as a firefighter in North Philadelphia, working in all parts of the city from Roxborough to Southwest Philadelphia, and rising through the ranks to over time to lieutenant, captain, and battalion chief, becoming commissioner in December 2004.

How has firefighting changed over the last 40 years?

“We used to fight fires with hose line and ladders,” Ayers notes, “and we still do in the emergency.  But now we have learned to fight fire through community risk reduction — by preventing the fire in the first place.”

One fire that stands out in his mind occurred when he was a captain at Engine 66, on Ridge Avenue.

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“We had a terrible fire in one of the wings of the apartment building, and I watched firefighters come to the rescue,” he recalls.  “And we saved the life of a firefighter’s daughter that day,” he adds.

Commissioner Ayers says he carries with him the memories of those firefighters lost in the line of duty and says a prayer every day for every firefighter and paramedic.

What’s next for Commissioner Ayers?   He and his wife plan to travel and look for ways to continue to be of service.

Ayers says Philadelphia will always be home to them.

Deputy fire commissioner Derrick Sawyer takes over for Ayers in the Philadelphia Fire Department’s top spot.


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