Kentucky Firefighter Killed in Accident

A rural volunteer fire department in Kentucky is not running calls for the next few days to give members a chance to grieve for a fallen comrade.

Charles McKenzie, 75, was struck and killed late Wednesday night by the tanker he drove to a house fire, said West Van Lear Fire Chief Bill Robinson.

McKenzie was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident, that remains under investigation.

In the early '60s, McKenzie saw the need for fire protection in the tiny town, and helped organize the department, Robinson said, adding that the founder is the first firefighter in Johnson County to die in the line of duty.

"After he organized the company, he backed away for quite a few years," Robinson said. "But, he came back. He did anything we needed, especially during the day when most of us are at work."

Among McKenzie's duties was manning the station's radio when firefighters were on a call. "If we needed anything, he could bring it to us. He also was a driver, and brought an extra truck..."

The chief said after the fatal crash, he placed his department out of service. "Right now, the City of Paintsville will automatically respond to calls in our area along with the closest volunteer company. We'll probably go back answering calls next week."

Funeral services with full fire department honors are set for 11 a.m. Sunday. McKenzie's son-in-law, a battalion chief in Winchester, Ky., has made arrangements for his honor guard to participate.

"It's been a terrible time here," Robinson said, adding that West Van Lear is about three miles from Loretta Lynn's home in Butcher Hollar.

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