The Saline Area Fire Department said good-bye to Lt. Kevin Cornell Monday night.
Cornell, who served on the force since 1990 - including the last 26 years as a full-time firefighter, is retiring to take a job as a fire investigator for Rimkus Consulting Group.
Cornell said he’ll miss working with the SAFD.
“I’ll miss the people here. I’ll miss the calls. I enjoyed the work,” Cornell said.
Cornell and his fellow firefighters gathered Monday night for their weekly training session. They enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and cake. Saline Mayor Brian Marl, chair of the Saline Area Fire Board, and Saline Fire Chief Craig Hoeft said a few words before Marl presented Cornell with a plaque recognizing his service.
“We appreciate all he’s done. He’s always been one of those guys who is done what he’s told to do,” Hoeft said. “It must not have been too hard on him, because he stayed with us a long time.”
Marl said Cornell held a special place in his heart, not only for his service as a firefighter and dispatcher, but because Marl recently officiated Cornell’s marriage to his wife, Reanna.
Cornell told his co-workers it was an honor to work alongside them.
“I appreciate having the opportunity to work with you all,” Cornell said. “It was not an easy decision (to retire). But I figured I better take advantage of this opportunity while it was there.”
Cornell graduated from Saline High School in 1985. His father worked for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Cornell was naturally drawn to a career in emergency services. He started as a paid on-call fire firefighter while working as a full-time dispatcher for the Saline Police Department.
“I always wanted to be in law enforcement because that’s what a lot of my family did,” Cornell said.
In 2002, he became a full-time firefighter and part-time dispatcher. He recently retired from his post at the Saline Police Department.
“I enjoyed my work as an on-call firefighter and I wanted to try another side of first-responder services,” Cornell said.
Cornell calls a lifetime of public safety work time well spent.
“I think it’s great. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to help people,” Cornell said.
Working in the private sector will have benefits.
“It’s going to be a big change. You have weekends off and holidays off. You can sleep at night,” Cornell said.
Chief Hoeft said Cornell was a valuable member of his force.
“He will be missed. He did a lot of administrative tasks for us and for me, like EMS coordination and a lot of the things we had to do in the county and in the state,” Hoeft said.
Cornell also led a training exercises and kept his co-workers up to speed on the latest techniques and regulations in EMS and firefighting.
Hoeft said he hoped to divide those duties between three firefighters.
Cornell’s departure will mean opportunity for others. The department will soon post a firefighter job. And for current employees, someone who be promoted to Lieutenant.
“Change can be a good thing. In a small department, sometimes there isn’t room to advance. So this can be a good thing and open opportunities for others,” Hoeft said.