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Funeral held for former NJ fire chief

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 06 2013 05:00:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 06 2013 06:25:55 PM CDT

The small community of Lopatcong Twp., N.J., buried its former fire chief Friday.

LOPATCONG TWP., N.J. -

The small community of Lopatcong Twp., N.J., buried its former fire chief Friday. Friends remembered the fourth generation firefighter and ex-cop as someone who always put others first -- even on the day he died.

When the fire trucks roll out in Lopatcong, it's always been a family affair. It certainly was for Barry Stires.

"His great-grandfather started in 1910," said Chris Gadway, head of the Red Knights Firefighters Motorcycle Club. "He was a fourth generation fireman. His son is the assistant chief now and he is the third chief in his family."

Friends said Stires died the way he lived: serving others. Sunday, he was clearing brush for relatives when he fell more than 50 feet to his death in Bethlehem Twp., Pa.

"There was never a person that I knew of that ever said a bad word about him, and never said a bad word about anybody," said retired Lopatcong police officer Dave Heater.

After a tearful funeral in Phillipsburg, Stires took one final ride on the fire engine -- his son by his side.

Beyond fighting fires, Stires loved riding his motorcycle. As his daughter looked on, Stires' widow revved the old girl up one last time. Fellow Red Knights members travelled from as far away as Canada for Friday's services.

"You could hear him coming a mile away from his laugh," remembered Heater. "He had a belly laugh."

Before they buried Stires, Warren Co. dispatchers sent out one last emergency call on the radio for him.

"Some people call it, 'It runs in their blood,' or, 'It runs in their genes,' said Gadway. "It's not; it's in their heart."

At the fire house, the bells signify the end of a call. In this case, it was a call to serve others.

"If somebody's going to heaven, it's going to be Barry Lee Stires," said Heater.