HED:Former Tupelo fire chief dies after illness

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Tupelo firefighters lost a veteran of their own Tuesday.

Flags at Tupelo fire stations were lowered to half-mast after retired Fire Chief Charles W. Farrar died at North Mississippi Medical Center on Tuesday morning following a long illness. He was 63.

"He really loved this place," current Fire Chief Mike Burns said.

Farrar, who joined the fire department in 1964, stepped down in 1993 after serving as chief for 10 years, He was forced into retirement following a bout with colon cancer and a stroke.

The people who worked with Farrar described him as a man who worked tirelessly to improve the department.

"He loved the fire department, and he loved the city," City Council President James Williams said. "Tupelo lost a good fire chief when he retired."

City and fire officials credit Farrar with beginning a program that updated Tupelo's aging fleet of fire trucks and equipment.

"Every time we got one of the new fire trucks, it was like Santa Claus had come to Chief Farrar," said former Tupelo Mayor Jack Marshall, who worked with Farrar many of the years he was chief.

The current state of the department's equipment is due to Farrar's persistence at consistently replacing the old, out-of-date engines, fire officials said.

"He got it started," said Assistant Fire Chief George Holcomb, who worked under Farrar for 17 years.

Under Farrar's leadership, the department also established a sixth fire station on Coley Road, improving response times on the west side of town.

Beyond new equipment and facilities, Farrar also made sure his firefighters were well-prepared, Williams said.

"He really pushed training," Williams said.

Farrar had shown dedication and drive throughout his nearly 30 years with the fire department, colleagues said.

"He started out on the ground floor and worked his way up," Holcomb said.

Even after he became chief, he would still go out in the middle of the night to answer fire calls, Williams said.

"He liked to make those calls with his men," Williams said.

Farrar was well-known among firefighters throughout the state of Mississippi. He served a year as president of the state fire chiefs association.

Even after Farrar retired, other firefighters from around the state would ask about him, Burns said.

A fire truck manufacturer continued to send an extra calendar to the fire department for Farrar, Burns said.

"They really wanted him to have it," he said.

Off the job, Farrar was still dedicated to helping people in the community, Marshall said.

On his days off, Farrar would often help the sick and elderly who could not do for themselves.

"He would cut their grass or do anything they needed," Marshall said.

His funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in the Jefferson Street Chapel of W.E. Pegues. Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. today.

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