'Rock-solid' Medford firefighters mourned

Along with quick thinking and a strong back, a well-developed sense of humor is an important quality shared by all good firefighters.

Firefighters and best friends John Wells and Gale Gurr had it to spare, according to the people who worked and lived with them at the Medford Fire Department.

"They approached the job with high energy and always provided the best care for someone in need," said Medford fire Chief Dave Bierwiler. "They would both stop by my office periodically to share some great stories."

The department was still reeling Saturday after losing Wells, 51, and Gurr, 37, to an all-terrain vehicle accident two days earlier.

The two were riding together in the Johns Peak area on a new Polaris Ranger RZR when the ATV tumbled down a steep slope they were climbing and hit a tree.

Medford fire Captain Bob Sharp said it will be difficult task when it comes time replace the fallen firefighters.

"Those two guys were what I would call rock-solid firefighters," Sharp said. "Sure, we can hire a couple of bodies to fill their positions, but they were extremely popular."

John Rory Wells was raised in San Jose, Calif., before marrying Marie Sisco and moving to Oregon in 1979. He began his firefighting career with the Klamath Falls Fire Department in 1983. Shortly thereafter, he celebrated the births of his daughters Jenna and Amanda Wells. Jenna preceded him in death. In 1992 he was hired with Medford Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT.

Like Gurr, Wells was described as a "prankster" by his fellow firefighters, but when it was time to work he gave it his all without complaint, Sharp said.

"He spent one whole day at my house on his day off helping me pour concrete," Sharp said. "He wouldn't take anything for it."

Gale Clifford Gurr was born in Pasadena, Calif., and graduated from California State University, San Bernadino with a Bachelor of Arts in business 1994. That same year he married Melissa Mengold. The couple moved to Oregon in 1995, where Gurr was hired by the Phoenix Fire Department. He received his EMP paramedic certification in 1998, the same year he started work at the Medford Fire Department. He was promoted to engineer in 2004. He left behind two young daughters, Lindsey and Ashley Gurr.

Medford firefighters enjoy sharing a story about Gurr in which he bought a week's worth of burritos for a homeless man at Senior Sams, according to Medford fire Captain Wayne Painter.

"He said, 'Hey, if I can drive around a half-a-million-dollar fire engine, he can have a week's worth of burritos,'" wrote Medford firefighter Chuck Glose in an e-mail.

A memorial service for both men will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Mountain Christian Fellowship on East Main Street in Medford.

The Medford Firefighters Association is accepting donations for the families of Wells and Gurr. Checks can be made out to the association can be mailed to Medford Firefighters Association, P.O. Box 1202, Medford, OR 97501

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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