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Public Servant: Henry serves to keep hometown safe

For 21 years, Gary Henry has seen a lot of Winchester from a fire truck or an ambulance.

He started at Winchester Fire-EMS in November 1998 as an EMT. Emergency medicine was his main focus, eventually becoming a paramedic.

Through the years, an interest in firefighting grew as well.

“That’s the good thing around here,” Henry said. “You can do both.”

About four years ago, Henry became the department’s fire marshal, which includes a variety of duties including inspecting public buildings, public fire safety education and investigating fires.

“I really enjoy doing the inspections of buildings,” he said. “I feel like I can make a difference protecting people if I do my job correctly.”

The most common problems can be ones no one thinks about.

“It seems little, but exit signs and lights not working,” he said. “A lot of it is dealing with businesses and teaching the owners.”

Investigating fires is another major part of Henry’s work. They aren’t arson investigators, he said, but fire investigators. The difference, he said, is going into a fire scene looking for what happened, rather than specifically looking for evidence of arson or foul play.

“It’s putting that puzzle together to find out what happened,” he said.”(Arson) can be difficult to prove. It’s part of the challenge.”

On any given day, Henry can still find himself assigned to a fire truck or an ambulance. He can still be called out in the wee hours of the morning for a fire, such as one at an apartment on North Main Street a couple weeks ago which resulted in a person’s death.

One of the risks in working in your hometown, he said, is responding to a call and learning it’s a relative or a friend. But the community is also home.

“I want to be here to help the community I grew up in,” Henry said. “I had friends who tried to get me to come to Lexington (Fire Department), but it didn’t interest me.

“I like the feel of this department. It’s my hometown. It’s a smaller department. I know everyone here.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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