After 32 years, McPherson Fire Chief Dennis Thrower celebrated his final day on the job with a packed reception Thursday afternoon, drawing city officials and fire chiefs from across Kansas to wish him well.


After 32 years, McPherson Fire Chief Dennis Thrower celebrated his final day on the job with a packed reception Thursday afternoon, drawing city officials and fire chiefs from across Kansas to wish him well.
“Dennis has integrity, a tremendous work ethic and for 15 years he’s led this department and done it well,” said McPherson Mayor Tom Brown. “We’re going to miss you.”
The reception was a celebration of Thrower’s career, which even drew a letter of congratulations from Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. However, Thrower seemed to appreciate most the remarks from his firefighting colleagues.
“Dennis, you’ve done a heck of a job,” said former Assistant Fire Chief Dave McMurray, who retired earlier this year. “Everyone came home, and that’s an accomplishment.”
Earlier in the week, The Sentinel had a chance to talk with Thrower about the highlights of his career.
“I always like to say I’ve had 32 years, with about a year and a half off for good behavior,” Thrower said. “I came to work in June of 1978 for the fire department. I left briefly in 1980 and went to work for McPherson EMS for paramedic training. As soon as I was done training, I came back to he fire department.”
In all that time, Thrower said what stands out is the people.
“Of course there’s been many big fires over the years, and those are very memorable,” Thrower said. “I really loved going out to the schools and teaching Learn Not To Burn, giving tours to the kids when they come here. I think working with the kids has been my favorite part.”
Thrower said that becoming a firefighter was “a fluke”. He was living in southern California, and came to McPherson to visit his brother, who wanted him to move here.
“I jokingly said ‘If I can get hired at the fire department, I will.’ I thought I was safe because getting on a fire department is usually very difficult,” Thrower said. “I came down to apply and they hired me. I’ve been here ever since and my brother joined the Air Force the next year, and he hasn’t been back. But, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Thrower said the thing he will miss most are the people here.
“McPherson is fortunate because we have so many caring,  very highly skilled professional people at the fire department. They’re not only employees, they’re friends,” Thrower said. “I’m going to miss coming to the office every day and seeing them.”
Now, Thrower said he plans on helping with his wife Melanie’s surveying business, and building on a piece of land he owns south of Abilene that, according to him, has some great fishing.
Stepping into his shoes is new Fire Chief Jeff Deal, who spoke glowingly of his predecessor.
“I can honestly say I have never met a greater man of character. He is just an impeccable individual. The things he’s been able to do for this fire department and this community - I don’t know if we’ll ever see the likes of again,” Deal said. “He is an exceptional manager, and incredible leader and I am absolutely blessed to be following in his footsteps. He will truly, truly be missed. I think I’ll always have a mentor there.”
Speaking at the end of his retirement ceremony, Thrower said that the real credit should go to the people working in the department.
“I’m here because of the people in this department. They’re the ones that did the work and kept this city safe,” Thrower said. “It’s been a phenomenal career.”