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    Oldsmar to emblazon ex-chief's name on road

    City officials plan to honor volunteer firefighter Lorenzo Hayes, still known as "Chief'' for his service.

    By ED QUIOCO

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 21, 2001


    OLDSMAR -- Described by some as an icon, Lorenzo Hayes is a familiar figure in the city, having spent more than three decades as a volunteer firefighter and a fire chief.

    For that, the city wants to honor him.

    "When you think of the volunteer fire department . . . you think of Lorenzo because he was always there," said Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland. "You can always depend on him."

    City officials plan to name a road extension after Hayes, 64, who was Oldsmar's volunteer fire chief from 1972 to 1980. According to a 1975 St. Petersburg Times story, he was perhaps the first black fire chief in Florida.

    Old-timers know Hayes as the gentle leader of the volunteer fire department when the city had fewer than 3,000 residents. Back then it wasn't unusual for parents to send their children to Hayes for some cleaning duty at the fire station as punishment for misbehavior.

    Oldmar's current fire chief, Scott McGuff, started his career as a volunteer at the fire department under Hayes. Some residents still have not stopped calling Hayes "Chief," McGuff said.

    "They tell me, "Sorry, Scott, I know you're the chief, but Lorenzo is still the chief,' " McGuff said. "He's just kind of our icon."

    Hayes began volunteering for the fire department in 1968, when it was run by volunteers. During his last year as chief, volunteer firefighters began to build the fire station on State Street using donations.

    The city now is building a $1.3-million fire station on Pine Avenue N and has more than a dozen paid firefighters. As part of that new fire station, the city also is planning to extend Bayview Boulevard north of Douglas Road to Pine Avenue N.

    The extension, which will be about a quarter-mile long, will be named after Hayes. The road extension will give firefighters quick access to the city's industrial district and residents another east-west route through the city.

    "He will be embarrassed," McGuff said. "But I'm excited we can do something for him."

    The city parks and recreation advisory board also has recommended naming a park after Hayes, McGuff said. The park will be built next to the new fire station and will have a lighted basketball court and a children's playground.

    The project is scheduled to be completed in 2002.

    Although Hayes describes himself as an "inactive" volunteer, he is a familiar face in the fire station and on emergency calls.

    "I'm really excited, and I really appreciate that I was remembered and that I did something that somebody thought enough of me to do that," Hayes said. "It's a nice gesture for the city to do something like that."

    His family says Hayes, who is a deacon at the Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church on Tampa Road, always has volunteered his time to help others.

    "He didn't care who you were or where you were, he would do what he could to help you," said his daughter Kathy Hayes, 38.

    Recent coverage

    Volunteer fire legend still lends a hand (August 14, 2000)

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