PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — After 44 years of service to the community as a firefighter, a lieutenant with the Escambia County Fire Rescue has retired.

There was a special retirement ceremony Thursday for John Van Matre.

He’s been a firefighter since he was 16 years old when he volunteered with the fire department in Ferry Pass. He spent the last 21 years with ECFR after starting his professional firefighting career in Fort Walton Beach.

“Gentlemen, it has been an honor to work with you, for some of you, and I just pray that God continues to bless y’all and to keep you safe,” he said during the ceremony.

He looks forward to spending more time with his wife, three children and three grandchildren.