Kenneth Galligan believed as a youngster that he would spend his entire working life in the Brockton Fire Department.
He was right.
On Friday, Galligan retired from the department after 41 years, the last 16 of them spent as fire chief.
He said he has no regrets.
“There was never a day I got up in the morning and said, ‘Geez, I got to go to work today,’” Galligan, 64, said during an interview this week at his office. “I don’t know how many people can say that.”
On Friday, an estimated 500 people attended a retirement party for Galligan, forming a long line outside department headquarters on West Street.
Along with current and former members of the department, top fire officials from as far as Holyoke, Dracut and Orleans attended, said Brockton fire Lt. Ed Williams.
“It was a great way to send him out,” Williams said.
It’s the people — and the firefighters’ brotherhood — that Galligan said he will miss most.
In his early days as a firefighter, Galligan said, he knew he was accepted by the department when fellow firefighters dumped a bucket of water on him on a warm day, a tradition that continues today.
A lifetime Brockton resident, Galligan said he’s always had fire service in his blood. His father was a fire chief at the former Naval Air Station in South Weymouth and his brother was a Brockton firefighter.
Galligan quickly rose through the department ranks after becoming a firefighter in 1968.
In 1979, he became the youngest deputy chief in the department’s history at age 34. Galligan was appointed chief in September 1993.
His passion for the job was obvious to others, including former Police Chief Paul Studenski.
“He really enjoyed doing the job,” Studenski said. “He was always happy working.”
Galligan said he will take with him memories of the fires, such as the Checkerton apartment house blaze of 1983 that killed three people.
What Galligan remembers most about the fire is not the deaths, but the pride he felt that his fire crews were able to save many people.
“When we got there, all the escapes from that building were engulfed in fire. There were people in the windows screaming to be rescued,” Galligan said.
“My guys threw ladders all over that building, and we rescued 16 people. Everybody that could be rescued was rescued,” he said. “All the things that you talk about and train for — it all came together.”
Over the years and decades, Galligan said he has seen the department change drastically.
As the department’s role in responding to medical emergencies has risen, the staff has shrunk through budget cuts. There are now 185 people on the payroll, compared to 250 when he started, he said.
Galligan said one of his key goals since starting as chief was to boost morale, and he believes he’s succeeded.
The president of the Brockton firefighters union, Archie Gormley, agreed.
“He improved morale by taking care of the guys, showing them that he’s going to work hard to keep them on the job,” Gormley said. “This chief was excellent for us. He’s going to be missed.”
Galligan will be succeeded as chief by Deputy Fire Chief Richard Francis.
For now, Galligan said, he has no immediate plans for his future away from the department where he has spent two-thirds of his life.
“I’m not looking to do anything full time,” he said. “I just want to enjoy life.”