Legendary Pa. retired fire chief dies

Retired Greensburg Fire Department Chief Ed Hutchinson had a 63-year fire career and was remembered as someone who always "pulled out all the stops"

 By Joe Napsha

GREENSBURG, Pa. — Legendary former Greensburg fire chief Ed Hutchinson – a community leader whose impact stretched far beyond the city's fire department and who served as the city's chief from 1953 through the end of 2016 – died Sunday morning.

“He inspired the other firefighters in the community to be community-oriented,” said Greensburg Assistant Fire Chief Kim Houser.

Hutchinson, 96, had a lot of firsts, Houser said.

“He pulled out all the stops. He always worked outside the box,” said George McFarland, captain of the Greensburg Fire Department dive team, which Hutchinson started in 1957.

McFarland recalled that Hutchinson, known as “Hutch,” was instrumental in starting the Mutual Aid Ambulance Service and was able to secure a landing site and garage for a StatMedEvac helicopter, the first medical helicopter outside Allegheny County.

During Hutchinson's tenure, the fire department's bloodhound team was created in 1969 and the fire department's tactical rescue team was formed in the 1980s.

With Hutchinson as chief, the fire department traveled far from Greensburg to help those in need throughout the eastern United States.


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Greensburg's fire department was involved in relief efforts at an island off Charleston, S.C., in October 1989 following destruction by Hurricane Hugo, for example, and firefighters were part of a major cleanup in the Smithfield, N.C., area in September 1996.

When 72 West Virginia coal miners were killed in November 1968 in a series of explosions and fires at a mine in Farmington, W.Va., the fire department responded with a fund drive for the families of the victims.

Hutchinson led a contingent of Greensburg firefighters to New York City on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, to assist in search efforts at the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center. The firefighters got to the outskirts of the city, but were told their rescue efforts were not needed.

The deadliest fire during Hutchinson's tenure occurred on Oct. 19, 1961, when five people were killed in the La Rose Shop fire on South Main Street.

A group of Greensburg firefighters, under Hutchinson's direction, played a key role in rescuing the nine coal miners trapped in the Quecreek coal mine in Somerset County in July 2002.

The rescue capsule used to haul the miners out of the pit was fabricated at the Hutchinson-Gunther metal shop in Greensburg. They outfitted the capsule with a camera and cables to provide communication with the miners.

Hutchinson joined the fire department's Hose Co. No. 3 on Nov. 13, 1939, which was 48 years after the fire company was formed.

His father, uncle and grandfather also were in the fire department. Until his retirement, his service in the fire department had been interrupted only by his service in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

He was a son of former Greensburg police Chief Walter J. Hutchinson. He and his brother, the late Amos K. Hutchinson, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps a few days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

His wife, Dolores Kralik Hutchinson, whom he married in 1947, died on Feb. 9. The couple had three children, Keith, Karen and Kevin. Both sons have been active in the fire department.

Funeral arrangements are private, according to the Leo M. Bacha Funeral Home in Greensburg.

Copyright 2018 Tribune-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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