Records family firefighting dedication will continue


Perhaps there is no greater compliment for a lifetime firefighter than being remembered as a “kick-ass dude who was wasn’t afraid of anything” – especially when it comes from your loving son.

Bryan Records greatly admired his father, Donald Records, who died Feb. 4 after being diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs. Earlier, he had been treated for cancer on his tongue.

The 78-year-old Salisbury native, who worked for the fire department 37 years, then returned as a volunteer, was honored at his funeral Tuesday by having his coffin transported on an antique fire truck.

After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1959, where he was aboard an aircraft carrier, Records joined the fire department, at Station 2, in 1959, and went to work for the city as a career fight fighter in 1963.

“He was a tough old bird,” his son said.

“Now, I am a career assistant chief, the same job he had. My brother, Steve, was a firefighter there 25 years. My son, Brandon, went there in 2005. He started as a volunteer,” he said.

Four generations have been involved in the fire service, starting with Donald’s father, Otis Records, one of the founding members, who helped build Station 2.


When he was a boy, Bryan Records decided he wanted to be just like his father who, years later, was named to the Delmarva Hall of Fame.

“I knew early on. He was good about it because for a lot of kids it was like, ‘Stay away from here.’ But my dad let me go on controlled burns. He was a kick-ass firefighter. He would go right at it.

“He was very, very active. Even though he was a volunteer, he was running a lot of fire calls. One of the things he was proud of was the high amount of guys who worked with him who went on to be chiefs and high-level officers,” he said.

“I can remember when I was kid, my grandmother lived on Naylor Street. When my grandfather was working, she would make a tray of food and I would load it up in my little wagon. It was safe enough that I could walk there to the fire house and walk back,” he said.

The elder Records not only worked as a firefighter, but also for Shore Fire Equipment, repairing trucks and extinguishers, and with his brother at Records Electric. Still, he found time to attend his children’s sporting events.

“He was very easy going. He was one of those kinds of guys who didn’t say much, but you could read his facial expressions and you knew when you better get out of there,” his son said, laughing.

“At a fire, you would look and there might be 100 people and one guy just had a presence. That’s how my father was. He was a take-charge guy.  My son’s that way and my brother’s that way. If he saw you were getting out of line, he would pull you aside and say, ‘That don’t fly here. Don’t make me tell you again,’” Records said.

Tim Keenan, who was trained by Donald Records, characterized him as an excellent leader. Keenan was a pall bearer at the funeral, at Holloway Funeral Home.

“I hold him in such high regard,” said Keenan, who’s retired as deputy chief of operations for the Salisbury Fire Department.

“I was fortune enough to be assigned to his shift in November of 1980 and from 1980 until 1983 it was my honor to serve as a firefighter and EMT under his command on D shift. That shift responded to more fires than anybody. We were just the busiest shift there was. We had some dramatic rescues.

“Donald Records never asked you to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself and that he couldn’t do himself,” Keenan said.

“His knowledge of pumps was legendary. He worked on pumps, valves, fixed leaks. He had a great knowledge. He could fix things. His mechanical ability was second to none,” he said.

Keenan last saw Records a few months ago and greeted him with, “Chief, how you doin’?”

“Hello, Timothy,” Records replied in his usual way.

He might not have been feeling well, but he wasn’t a man who complained, even when battling blazes in strong wind, snow or driving rain.

“The three years I served under his command on that shift were some of the busiest, but the happiest, times in my 32-year career because we were really doing the job. We were fighting fires, it seemed like, every single shift.

“I think the greatest gift he gave me, or tool he provided me with, was he spent hours with us down at the old Salisbury Fire Department training ground teaching me to be the best engineer, motor pump operator. He just made me the best I could ever possibly be at driving a fire engine and pumping a fire engine,” Keenan said.

“He was like a father to us. He was a wonderful man. He was just a wonderful man. He was never boastful. He was quiet and humble and he led by example.

“I can hear him right now. ‘Timothy, son, I’m really proud of you’. And I’d say, ‘Chief, that really means something.’”

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