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Pioneer Fire Chief Recites Tales of the 171st Legacy

  • Published
  • By Air Force Staff Sgt. Bryan Hoover
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing

In 1947, the current 171st Air Refueling Wing was formed in Pittsburgh. As the base grew from farmlands, fire protection operated like many of the local municipalities in Pittsburgh, with a volunteer fire service. Edward J. “Buck” Boyd volunteered with the fire department after his enlistment in the Air National Guard in 1950. He worked in almost every section on base basically serving as a “jack-of-all-trades”. He worked in fabrication, refueling, and even civil engineering shops until 1962. It was then that the installation recognized the fire department as an official career field. Buck stepped out of his role working multiple jobs and into his role as the wing’s first ever Fire Chief. From that point forward, he carried the torch until his retirement in 1986. 

Since his retirement, Buck has visited the fire department on several occasions. Like every other time, when he stops by, he always has a story to tell. Recently, Buck stopped by the fire department and sat down with the current fire chief, Master Sgt. Gary Shannon, Civil Engineer Commander, and Fire Marshall Maj. Jeremy Ketter and Engineer Capt. Matthew Saccone. Buck spent the better half of his afternoon telling all kinds of stories from the fires he’s battled, to aircraft rescues, recoveries, and he even told the tale of how he laid the bricks of the fire department which still stands today. 

While Buck was knee deep in explaining one of his memories, a Tech. Sgt. interrupted him to point out the differences between Buck’s firefighting experiences versus the current firefighters' certifications. Not to be discredited for his hard work, Buck responded quickly with something that would make all retired firefighters smile, “I’ve seen more fire than you will probably ever see.” Buck wasn’t insulting the young man, he was merely pointing out that he served during a time when an organized regulation of fire codes did not exist. Since the passing of the torch, the fire protection career field has focused the majority of its efforts into education and training of fire prevention. A luxury many of the Air Forces pioneer firefighters did without.

Chief Master Sgt. Edward J. “Buck” Boyd doesn’t visit the 171st fire station as often as he would like. For an 89-year old man, he keeps himself very busy. So when he takes a break and stops by the 171st to share a piece of his past, you better believe that the future of our wing takes the opportunity to sit and listen. Chief Boyd is a walking historian for the Pittsburgh Air National Guard base. His contributions to the base can never be measured. Not only did he establish the fire department and its rich history, he literally built it from the ground up.