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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Bruce Dempsey remembers his father through pictures and mementos.

George Dempsey, Clay County's first official firefighter, died last week after a lifetime of service. "About 12-years-old he started chasing the fire department on a bicycle and all," his son said.

George Dempsey joined the New Orleans Fire Department in 1953. Two years later, he made his first rescue, saving three small children from a burning building. He was honored by the city and mayor of New Orleans.

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He made the First Coast his home after that.

"When he first came here, that's all he looked for: where the fire department was," Bruce Dempsey said. "And when he knew that they didn't have it set up, he went to work getting it set up."

Dempsey was a volunteer for years until he became a paid firefighter in 1993.

"He got to be the first paid man and then he pushed hard and hard to get the rest of them paid," his son said, calling him a father, friend and hero.