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Elon fire chief retiring after 45-year career

With his retirement at the end of this month, Elon fire chief Alva Sizemore, 61, has been pondering the countless changes he’s seen in the town’s fire department – and in the profession itself – since he first stepped into Station 8 as a 17-year-old in 1976.

During his 45 years as a firefighter, Sizemore has seen the arrival of new technology like the individual pagers that debuted in the late seventies, substantial growth in his original Elon department, and dozens of new faces. Now, the next sizable change will be his departure.

“It’s just time,” the outgoing chief recently told The Alamance News.

Of Sizemore’s 45-year career, 38 years have been with Elon and 30 have seen him serve as chief of any one of Alamance County’s many fire departments. While still serving as a

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volunteer at Elon in 1990, he was brought on as a firefighter at Burlington, where he stayed for five years before being offered an assistant chief position from the former.

After 12 years, he went to work for the county fire marshal’s office as a countywide chemical planner before being promoted to deputy fire marshal and the county’s assistant emergency management coordinator. During his time with the county, Sizemore also served as fire chief for the county’s North Central department, a position he resigned from after eight years to return to Elon in 2015 as the town’s first full-time, paid chief.

“Now, it’s time for a change of the guard,” he said. “I told the town manager [Richard Roedner] that I desire to see a smooth transition, to see somebody come in and do more than I did.”

For his part, Sizemore attributes much of his own career growth and success to the leaders that he’s served under.

“There’s been different people, different guys, that over the years I saw how they did and operated and how they worked, and I picked up on what they did,” he recalled. “I can’t really say that I can single out one particular person. There have just been several of them in a collective way.”

Following his own passing of the torch, Sizemore plans to continue as a volunteer with his local department, North Central, and spend more time hunting, participating in tractor pulls, and expanding his herd of cattle and donkeys.

“I’m probably going to be busier than I’ve ever been,” he mused.

The chief will also be devoting more time to his family, especially wife Dee, whom he affectionately calls his “rock.”

“My family, through the years, have really supported me,” he said, referring also to the couple’s three children. “There’s been a lot of times that her plans were interrupted because of this job.”

Still, he added, “It’s been a good journey. I’ve gotten to do so much in my career. I feel like the Lord has blessed me, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”

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