He is loved by his crew, has responded to thousands of fires throughout his career, and has no plans for retirement - even after 45 years .
When Libby fire chief Tom Wood was presented with a commemorative plaque last week, his crew, and the whole community, were able to show their respect for a dedicated volunteer and leader.
Tom’s father also served as fire chief, and Tom remembers running to open the doors of the station for him when a call came. As soon as he could, aged 21, on Aug 5 1971, he signed up as a member of the volunteer fire department.
Famous locally for leaving his wedding minutes after the ceremony to answer a fire call, Tom said that his wife, Melanie, told him ‘you were a firefighter before you were my husband’, with characteristic understanding. It’s an understanding she has had to maintain all her married life, with Tom answering 152 calls last year, and not missing a call for two years in a row now. The department receives 150-200 calls per year.
The chief remembers the 1993 and 2010 plywood mill fires as standouts in his career, and reports that aside from a few broken ribs and visits to hospital for oxygen to treat smoke inhalation, he has been lucky to avoid injury. Tom speaks highly of the many volunteers who have served, including his two brothers, adding “It’s not just me, it’s the support of the whole community”.
Tom’s crew at the fire department have many good things to say about their chief. Second
Assistant and training officer Scott Beagle, who also happens to be Tom’s son in law, said in regards to his chief “his leadership, his dedication are second to none. I strive to have that same dedication and commitment that Tom has”.
As long as his health holds out, Tom has no plans to retire. His crew told him they bought a 50 year commemorative pin and are planning to give it to him in five years.
He laughs, recalling that they told him “you better be here to receive it!”