Lanett firefighter retires after 25 years

Published 6:31 pm Monday, June 3, 2019

LANETT — Sam Thrower decided at a young age that he wanted to be a fireman.

“I made up my mind when I was in the sixth grade in Mrs. Moncus’ science class at South Elementary School in Lanett,” he said. “I got my mother to take me by the Lanett fire station, and I knew that was it. That was what I wanted to do.”

He had to wait until he was 16 to have his first experience in actual firefighting. That was with the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department. A couple of years later in 1993, he was hired on by the Lanett Fire Department on a part-time basis. He was taken on in a full-time basis in May 1994.

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On Friday, he retired after a 25-year career with the LFD.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better career,” he said at a retirement luncheon held at the Lanett fire station. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do. It was not all laughs, there were some bad times too. There are days when you can save somebody’s house and other days when you can’t. There are days when you can bring life into the world — there are three birth certificates out there with my name on them — and other days when you watch it go. I like the way my former fire captain, Donnie Gillenwaters, put it when he retired. He told me to never forget that all fires eventually go out, bleeding will eventually stop and sometimes people die on you.”

Thrower said he wanted to thank his wife Kathy, who’s a registered nurse at EAMC-Lanier Hospital.

“I could not have made it without her,” he said. “I want to thank my parents, Jerry and Patsy Thrower, I’d glad they got to see me retire.”

“I’ve served under nine different fire chiefs,” he said. “The one we have now, Johnny Allen, is the best one I’ve served under. He and Mayor Kyle McCoy are real good about getting us the training and equipment we need to have a first-rate department.”

Lanett has 20 full-time and five part-time firefighters. They work on three shifts with at least six people on each shift. The department has 11 vehicles altogether. This includes three ambulances, one ladder truck, three pumper trucks, a reserve truck and two command vehicles.

“We are very, very well-equipped,” Allen said. “We have an ISO rating of 3 which is top notch. We were only a couple of points shy of a 2 in our last rating, and we’re hoping to make that the next time we are up for it.”

The LFD offers fire protection to all areas inside the city limits and responds to mutual aid requests in areas outside the city. The Lanett EMS has a very large service area, some 140 square miles outside the city limits. This extends all the way to the Randolph County line.

“These retirement parties are fun to have, but they are bittersweet,” McCoy said. “We wish our employees well, but we know we are losing valuable people with years of experience in working with the city. We wish Sam well, but we know he will not be easily replaced.”