Former Phoenix firefighter celebrates his 105th birthday
Benny Ashley started working for the Phoenix Fire Department in 1942.
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Back in 1917, Woodrow Wilson was president, and Arizona had only been a state for five years.
It’s also the year Benny Ashley was born. Since then he’s watched just about every Phoenix street corner grow from his seat in his fire truck as even the job itself has evolved. Benny joined the Phoenix Fire Department in 1942. “We just went into the smoke-filled room and fought fires,”Ashley said.
This week, Benny celebrated his 105th birthday! It’s a milestone that was marked with a cake and the celebration of a lifetime achievement award from the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. Benny’s hard work and advocacy in the 1960′s led to the creation of the system that provides benefits for firefighters and law enforcement officers across Arizona.
Phoenix Fire Captain Brian Moore says Benny holds a tremendous amount of history with stories and amazing details of the way it once was. He often visits fire stations, and the crews always love to see him. “They didn’t have a breathing apparatus to protect them from the smoke. They didn’t have thermal protection in the form of turnout gear,” Moore said. “The fire apparatus that they operated with and rode didn’t have seatbelts.”
Benny’s daughter Anita Lanphier recalls those stories, including the unbelievable. “His crew would not go in the back in this house,” she said. “And he wanted to know why, and they said ‘there’s a lion back there.’ And so he said ‘No!’ So he went back there, and sure enough there was an African lion back there, and this family had this lion as a pet.”
Firefighting, Phoenix, and the world at home may have changed, but Benny will always be a man at home at the firehouse. He retired as a captain with more than 30 years of service having also served in World War II and the Korean War.
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