Hero Spotlight: Chief Irby Klinck

Chief Irby Klinck
Chief Irby Klinck

December 1933 Fire Chief John Moore retires, and Chief Irby Klinck is appointed. One of the most distinguished gentlemen who wore the badge was Irby Klinck. Irby Klinck entered the Memphis Fire Department in 1905; by 1908 he was the driver of Truck 2, later promoted to Captain of Engine 4, then North District Assistant Chief. When Chief Moore retired, Chief Klinck was appointed to command the department. 

During the 10 years he served as Fire Chief he was responsible for many improvements in programs, policies, and procedures. All Fire Companies would get out in their district and go door to do on a campaign to reduce fire losses and deaths by inspecting homes and businesses. Chief Klinck adjusted how the manpower was allocated. He improved the Communications system (first Hard Wired P A dispatch system to each station ).  Fire Prevention became a top priority, and our fire losses and insurance costs dropped.

In 1935 he was instrumental in the purchase of the Flood Light Truck and he hosted the first Fire Department Instructors Conference. It helped that Memphis was a convention city with plenty of hotel space and with good food and entertainment. It also helped that the Memphis Fire Department was considered to be one of the best departments in the US. He led the department through the severe flood of 1937. And in 1938 he redesigned the Water Tower apparatus to flow twice as much water as it previously produced.

He was quite the visionary. Klinck was able to make some of the greatest changes for the betterment of the department than many of his predecessors. During his time as Chief, through the Great Depression and the early years of WWII,  the department received its first 100 ft. aluminum Aerial Ladder truck, two Quads, two Junior Aerials, and several pumpers. He retired in March of 1943. Chief Klinck suffered hypertension for five years prior and passed away after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage on March 22, 1944.

Written by Joe Lowry with research and editorial assistance by Trish Gully.

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