Home Local News Hoffman fireman honored for 50 years of service

Hoffman fireman honored for 50 years of service

Raymond McRae, left, is presented with a plaque honoring him for serving 50 years with the Hoffman Fire Department by Chief Frank McKay. Photo by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

HOFFMAN — Raymond McRae Jr. has been a fireman for most of his life.

Born in Scotland County, McRae’s family moved to Hoffman when he was 10 years old. He joined the fire department at the age of 22 — in January of 1972.

On Tuesday, Hoffman Fire Chief Frank McKay presented McRae with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the department.

“We’re happy you were able to hang in there that long,” McKay told McRae. “We hope we will continue to get something out of you.”

McKay joined the department five years after McRae in 1977.

McRae said he joined because the department, at the time, needed some help.

“Believe it or not, young people back then, they didn’t believe in messing with nothing like that … so I said, ‘Well, I need to make a move,’” McRae said.

“I started from there and been here and there and did a little bit of everything that needed to be done.”

Those calls have included fires, wrecks and search-and-rescue missions in Richmond and surrounding counties.

Things were a lot different in the early ‘70s.

McRae said if the fire siren blared twice, it meant the fire was south of Hoffman. Three times meant it was north of town.

A lot of times, we’d come up and jump on … back then you could ride on the back … you can’t do it no more,” McRae recalled. “It might be four people on one truck.”
McRae also said fire hydrants were non-existent.

“We had to go down to the spring or the branch or whatever to get water,” he said.

During his time with the department, McRae said he thought about becoming an officer — “but I didn’t want to be over nobody, I like to be with them.”
McRae said he’s seen “quite a bit” in his 50 years.

“One time a lady burned up, we had to go get her out,” he said. “And that smell … you smell it so long it seems like you can taste it.”

Like most longtime firemen in Richmond County, McRae said the most memorable call was the Imperial Foods chicken plant fire in Hamlet in 1991.

“I spent a whole day down there,” McRae said. “That was something you never forget.

“We had some people had to go to some kind of class … ‘cause they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t sleep … it was rough.”

The tragedy was remembered last year on the 30th anniversary of the fatal event.

Click here to read about the survivors.

Click here to read how first responders dealt with the fire and aftermath.

Click here to read how it changed workplace safety in North Carolina.

Helping others in a time of critical need is what McRae said has been the most rewarding experience of being a volunteer fireman.

“I believe if we had to get paid for it, I don’t believe I would do it,” he said.

Even at 72, McRae has kept up his certifications.

He had doubts about taking a CPR class a few months ago.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t need to do that thing no more,” but… I said, ‘You ain’t doing nothing …if you can help out, jump on it.”


When he wasn’t responding to calls, McRae was a certified tool-and-die maker and retired in 2010 when his last employer went out of business.

McRae almost left the department two years ago, but McKay convinced him to stay on board to hit the 50-year mark.

After reaching the milestone in January, McRae said the chief asked if he was still going to stay.

“He said, ‘We ain’t gonna let you do so much, no way,’ so I said, ‘Why not?’”

McRae said the Hoffman Fire Department is like a family and the members look out for each other.

Aside from a bad foot, McRae said his health is still pretty good and he’ll help out wherever and whenever he can — “if it ain’t nothing but bringing a bottle of water.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.