Former Kemper County Fire Coordinator Ray Luke displays a proclamation from the Mississippi State Legislature honoring his years of service.
Former Kemper County Fire Coordinator Ray Luke displays a proclamation from the Mississippi State Legislature honoring his years of service.
By Mike Robertson

Kemper County Messenger

Life-long Kemper County resident, Ray Luke retired from his position as County Fire Coordinator Dec. 31 after many years of selfless, dedicated service. Luke was Fire Coordinator for 27 years; his retirement was due to health reasons.

Luke was born and raised in Kemper County and attended school in the Kemper County School system, and graduated from West Kemper High School. After high school graduation he attended EMCC and Mississippi State University, and then served in the Kemper County School District for 32 years as a Vocational-Agricultural teacher and counselor, before retiring in 2009.

His days as a volunteer fire-fighter go back to the organization of the Preston VFD in 1976, which was the first rural department in Kemper County. Luke stated that in those days rural fire-fighting was in its infancy, and they had very little equipment with which to work, but they did what they could with what they had. In 1980 the County had four fire departments; presently that number is 15.

He said, “When we first started we didn’t have hardly anything to work with. And over a period of time we developed a radio system where we could communicate with each other. Back in 1986 we got a grant to buy new rural fire trucks.”

In 2000, the county fire departments had 3 Class A pumpers; currently there are 15 Class A pumpers in the county, and a total of 23 trucks in all. Luke said they had been able to accomplish this through the aid of federal grants and that the Kemper County Board of Supervisors and the Boards of Aldermen for DeKalb and Scooba had played a big role, as well as fire board members and all Kemper County volunteer fire-fighters..

Luke said, “We started with nothing, and the fire-fighting capability in Kemper County has made a lot of progress.”

Luke also served at Emergency Management Director for a number of years. He said, “After September 11, 2001, when the threat of terrorism got so bad, the work for the Emergency Management Director just exploded.” He stated that he could not continue with both that job and the school system, so he resigned as EMD.

Luke described his Fire Coordinator duties as a liaison between the fire departments and the Board of Supervisors, the State Fire Marshal and the State Fire Coordinator. His duties also included coordinating training, managing the budget and purchasing.

Another important job is filing the proper paperwork with state agencies in a timely manner, to insure that the fire departments receive insurance rebate funds, which can be used for many purposes.

In addition to all of his other work Luke has been a United Methodist minister since 1988. He now pastors Macedonia UMC and Shuqualak UMC in Noxubee County. Luke and his wife of 15 years, Cyndi, still live in the Preston Community.