Warwick, RI — When David Morse, 55, was a kid, he’d ride his bike to the corner of Morse Avenue and Kernick Street to watch for engines from the Greenwood Fire Department, sometimes seeing his father, Eugene, headed for a call.
“The thrill of a little kid,” said Morse, named Assistant Fire Chief last week after four years as Battalion. At the corner was a traffic light. “I’d sit there and when it went green, that meant a truck was coming,” he said.
“I followed in dad’s footsteps,” Morse said. Eugene started with the department and retired in 1981. David started with the department in 1985.
Sometimes, his dad was on the truck. Either way, Morse would watch, though. “That was fun for me,” he said. The times his dad was on the call, Eugene would check with the Lieutenant if it was all right for his son to sit on the back of the truck when it returned to the station at 45 Kendrick St. If the answer was yes, “I’d be able to sit in the back of the truck as he (Eugene) backed it back into the fire station,” Morse said.
Morse said he’s sure he was a nuisance to the firefighters, hanging around the station as much as he did. “As a kid, I just always followed my dad,” he said.
In 1982, Morse decided he’d follow his dad onto the Warwick Fire Department, too. He failed the 100 yard swim, and had to wait two years to apply again. He didn’t take any chances during that time. “I joined the Y and got my ass in the swimming pool and learned to swim,” Morse said.
In 1984, he was ready, but came in 8th in his class with only seven firefighters selected. “To know Gene Morse, he was not a happy camper,” Morse said.
But the younger Morse made the grade the next May, and Eugene Morse pinned him as a probationary firefighter, then again as a Lieutenant.
But before Morse made Captain, his dad died on Aug. 9, 1997. He was 72.
“He was gone,” Morse said, barely finishing the words before his voice failed him. Tears gathered in his eyes as he worked to find his voice. “He was a big man,” he said.
Morse said he was having fun as Battalion Chief. “I think it was my favorite of all the positions,” he said, “But I’m ready for this new adventure,” he said.
Morse applied for the position and interviewed for it Dec. 8. Mayor Scott Avedisian called him just before Christmas to tell him he’d gotten the job. Today, as Morse prepares to take the reins from retiring Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Cooley, “I think my dad would be very happy.”
Morse isn’t the last in the family to join the Fire Department. His son, David, joined five years ago. His son-in-law, Joshua Clift, joined three years ago.
As for his future plans as Assistant Chief, Morse said he plans to follow Chief Edmund Armstrong’s example. “Anything you can build on what Chief Armstrong has achieved, put forth, is quite a feat,” he said.
Morse has become familiar with long hours at the Fire Department during the last 30 years, and he’s looking forward to the a more stable work-life balance with the new position. Even though he’ll still be on call for long hours, he’ll still get to eat dinners at home, and sleep at home. “I know the wife likes the idea that I’m going to be at home at night,” Morse said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
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