Born and raised in Vicksburg, Donell Wince, Jr. started his fire fighting career in 1974 shortly after a butane explosion in town.
Wince admits that he had his doubts after the explosion, but he decided to join the Vicksburg Fire Department anyway. That fateful decision would shape his life, as well the future of the Vicksburg Fire Department, for the better. Over the next 35 years, Wince worked his way through the ranks at the VFD, eventually serving as assistant chief and then battalion chief.
Those who worked with him respected his dedication, leadership and experience, and Wince became the kind of mentor who was also very much a father-figure to the younger guys, who dubbed him ‘Daddy D’.
“I enjoyed my job very much,and many of the guys became like family to me over time,” Wince said.
Wince appreciates those relationships and the rewarding nature of a career helping his neighbors in their times of need. A firefighting career can also leave scars, and Wince still lives with vivid memories like those of a tragic chemical plant fire and a particularly devastating house fire that ended a young life before it even began.
“It bothers you when a tragedy involves a child, and those things stick with you,” Wince said.
By 1983, Wince was promoted to assistant chief and he was also shift commander. He had come a long way in the nine years since joining the Cherry Street fire station.
Craig Danczyk, the current fire chief, was among the many young men that Wince trained over the course of his career.
“Donell Wince was my battalion chief when I hired on in May 1995. I was assigned to C-Shift, and Chief Wince was transferred to C-Shift from A-Shift,” Danczyk remembers. “He knew his personnel well and gave me lots of opportunities during my first year on the job. I credit him with being one of those great supervisors that positively affects someone else’s career.”
“I remember when we had the fire truck wreck in November 1998 (Engine 7 drove off the bridge on North Frontage Road and fell 51 feet), Chief Wince was one of the first units to arrive on scene. He was focused, concerned, and transported one of the injured himself to the hospital. Chief Wince would also back his employees, and I respected that very much.”
In 2009, “Daddy D” attended his last call, a fire at Dickerson Tire Service, before turning over the reins to the capable hands of the men that he had worked with for so many years. Wince is now enjoying the retired life, a well-deserved reward after dedicating more than three decades to serving our community.