When he hopped into the firetruck for his last run Monday, Pantex firefighter Bill Hickman was ready to turn over his title to a slightly younger person.
Hickman, who at 78 was thought to be the nation’s oldest firefighter, marked his retirement Monday with one last drive under the flashing lights of a firetruck to a ceremony at the Plant to commemorate his 48 years at Pantex.
“I wholeheartedly salute Bill for his years of service at Pantex,” said Pantex Fire Department Chief Mike Brock. “It’s impressive to me to see how well he has taken care of himself and remained a valued member of this department. It’s always hard when you see someone with that kind of experience walk out the door.”
The International Association of Firefighters does not track the ages of all of its members, so the organization cannot say with absolute certainty that Hickman is the oldest active (non-volunteer) firefighter in the country. However, IAFF officials say they are unaware of an older active firefighter, so they presume that Hickman is the longest serving.
Hickman came to work at Pantex on March 30, 1964, as a boilermaker and welder. He joined the fire department in 1970 and has spent more than 30 years as a motor pump operator. He said he still wakes up every morning and does stretches and calisthenics, which allows him to complete the grueling firefighter combat challenge in well under the required seven minutes.
“48 years is a long time,” Hickman said. “For the most part, it’s been a very enjoyable ride. I’m glad for the time I spent at Pantex. But at 78 years old; it’s time.”