Chief Louis Kelly’s impressive 47-year fire career began in 1969, as a probationary firefighter in Ladder Co. 3 of the Elizabeth, New Jersey, Fire Department. In 1977, he was promoted to captain of Rescue Co. 1. In 1986, he was promoted to battalion chief and then made deputy chief in 1993. In 1999, he was elevated to the rank of chief of the department. After his retirement in 2003, Chief Kelly continued serving for another 13 years as a deputy fire mutual aid coordinator (MAC-7) for Union County, New Jersey, and also as an honorary member of the Kenilworth, New Jersey, Volunteer Fire Department.
Over the years, Chief Kelly has been the recipient of many commendations, recognitions, and awards. A three-time recipient of the Valor Award from the 200 Club of Union County, he received two Heroism and Community Service Awards from Firehouse Magazine. The Elizabeth Fire Department awarded him three Class 1 awards, four Class 2 awards, and four Unit Citations.
Under his leadership, the Elizabeth Fire Department and many other Union County, New Jersey, Fire Departments gave their all assisting in recovery efforts on September 11, 2001. In the months following that tragic day, Chief Kelly played an instrumental role in organizing and deploying New Jersey units into New York City to provide station coverage while the FDNY mourned the loss of their 343 brothers.
Chief Kelly will also be remembered for his love of children and dedication to his community. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he helped rebuild playgrounds for school children in Mississippi. He was an ambassador for “Play Ball for Miracles,” an organization that raises and donates funds to the Children’s Miracle Network. He was a coach for the Elmora Youth Baseball League and active in many other community organizations.
Kelly was stricken in the line of duty while operating at the command post of a multiple alarm fire in Clark, New Jersey, on December 8, 2016, ultimately succumbing on December 16, 2016.
Chief Kelly was “a tough old school Chief, who made the safety of his men paramount.” Elizabeth Deputy Chief Lathey Wirkus, who worked with Chief Kelly, said, “He did not leave us simply to mourn. He made one thing clear: Keep moving forward.”