Gail McCulloch, widow of Lloyd McCulloch, during a memorial service Wednesday to honor two Moulton firefighters. McCulloch and Dusty Jones died while fighting a fire Feb. 21, 2006.
Family, supporters gather to honor fallen firefighters
By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily .com · 340-2443
MOULTON — Supporters crowded the Moulton Fire Department on Wednesday to honor two fallen firefighters on the one-year anniversary of their deaths.
A wall collapsed on volunteer firefighters Lloyd McCulloch, 63, and Dustin "Dusty" Jones, 23, while they were fighting a fire at Outdoor Parts and Equipment in Moulton on Feb. 21, 2006.
Firefighters had the fire under control and were putting out hot spots when the wall fell.
Before the memorial, Chalybeate volunteer firefighter Denise Ray reflected on the fateful night's events.
"When the initial page went out that two firefighters were in trouble, I was in my truck because our fire department had already left the scene," she said. "I rushed back up there and just started digging as fast as I could."
Ray had fought many fires with McCulloch, a 42-year veteran with the fire department, and Jones, a four-year veteran, she said.
She said McCulloch had been her mentor.
"He would joke around but knew when it was time to be serious and fight the fires," she said. "But afterwards, he made the job fun and always told everybody they had done a good job."
Jones was the same age as Ray's son, also named Dusty, and would often call her "Mom," said Ray.
"When I got back to the fire and found out he was one of the two, I was fighting just like he was my own because that's how I felt," she said.
Firefighters and family members set up displays with items depicting the lives of Jones and McCulloch.
Jones' display featured photos and awards from his JROTC experience at Lawrence County High School and his early career at the fire department.
Jones' sister, Amanda Pahman of Montgomery, said her brother had wanted to be a firefighter since he was 3 years old, when firefighters rescued him from a mobile-home fire.
The fire left him with severe burns on his arms and legs.
"He said he wanted to be a firefighter because he didn't want anybody else getting hurt like he did," said Pahman.
McCulloch's display was full of photos from his lengthy career fighting fires, a plaque honoring him for his service and a Christmas card to his wife, Gail McCulloch.
The card was signed, "To the love of my life, now and forever."
During the memorial, firefighters presented flowers to Gail McCulloch; Jones' mother, Denise Motes; McCulloch's mother, Mildred McCulloch; and Jones' grandmother, Helen Jones.
Moulton Fire Chief Keith Vinson, McCulloch's son-in-law, also honored all current Moulton firefighters and City Council members.
Keith Gilley is both a council member and firefighter.
"These are some of the finest individuals I could ever hope to work with," said Vinson.
The crowd gave the firefighters a standing ovation.
Vinson, who has said that McCulloch was his inspiration for becoming a firefighter, thanked the attendees for their continued support.
"It has been our good fortune to live among such good people such as yourselves. ... When the wall fell, many us wanted to fall, but you wouldn't let us give up," he said. "Good people soften the blow of tragedy."
Beth Vinson, Keith Vinson's wife and McCulloch's daughter, urged the crowd to remember the happy times while the two firefighters were alive and to not focus on their deaths.
"They would not want us to continue to be sad over those few seconds," she said. "If we had been given 100 years with each of them, we'd still be wanting more. They were just that good."
Keith and Beth Vinson presented Mayor Ray Alexander with a commemorative print honoring McCulloch and Jones that will be on permanent display at the Moulton City Hall.
Keith Vinson said they will continue to honor the firefighters with the construction of a wood and glass memorial to contain McCulloch's and Jones' uniforms and boots.
They will also attend the Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Maryland in October to add McCulloch's and Jones' names to the national list of fallen firefighters.
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