Arrested Developments: Remembering a fire marshal’s service

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, February 23, 2019
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We were wrapping up the Saturday edition of the Messenger last Friday when I saw an email with the updated funeral listings from a local funeral home. I saw a name I recognized: Mike Bement.

It instantly brought back memories of my early years at this paper nearly 20 years ago. Back then, I was in my early 20s, fresh out of college. But Bement was in his last couple of years as Wise County fire marshal.

Brian Knox

Now, writing for a college newspaper can only prepare you so much for “real world” reporting. It certainly didn’t prepare me for Mr. Bement.

Our paths would usually cross at the site of house fires in the county. We didn’t have a full time photographer, so I’d have both notepad and camera in tow.

I remember one house fire in particular that I went to somewhere near Lake Bridgeport. The fire had been extinguished, and I had already taken photos of the scene, so I was hanging around to talk to Fire Marshal Bement for the story.

Bement was talking to someone, possibly the homeowner, and I was just close enough to hear their voices but not really close enough to hear what they were saying.

Suddenly, Bement turned and looked in my direction and yelled in his distinctive gravely voice, “Can you go take some photos?”

I had never been asked to do this before, so it caught me by surprise. So I asked for clarification.

“I’ve already taken some photos, but you want me to take more photos for you?”

“I said, go take some photos!” he snapped back, much louder than the first time, and I realized the first comment wasn’t a question after all.

I walked back over and started taking photos of the fire aftermath, still a bit confused.

Later, once he was done talking, Bement came back over to talk to me – this time speaking in normal, conversational tones.

“Sorry if it sounded like I was getting on to you back there. Sometimes these guys won’t talk to me if there’s press around,” he told me.

You have to understand that this was back in the days where meth lab explosions were still commonplace in these parts. I imagine he might have been used to talking to people who weren’t always forthcoming with information about the fire’s origin, particularly if a reporter was within earshot.

Often when police or firefighters die, we’ll hear a tribute over the police radio for that person. On Tuesday, the day Bement was laid to rest, it was his turn.

“Fire Marshal Bement, thank you for your service to Wise County. We’ll take it from here,” the dispatcher said.

What more can be said?


The Wise County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Wise Community Health Improvement Initiative will host an “Addiction is Real” forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the Women’s Building on the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said this forum is a followup to the methamphetamine forum held last year. The upcoming forum will include a number of local residents who will share their experience with methamphetamine and addiction.


The City of Bridgeport and Bridgeport Police Department will hold a retirement reception to honor Police Officer Lee Snodgrass for his more than 15 years of service to the city at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Walter Dale Community Room at the Bridgeport Police Department. For information, call 940-683-3400.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager and No. 1 crime reporter.

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