WHITLEY CITY, Ky. (WKYT) - You don’t have to go far in McCreary County to run into someone who knew the man…they simply knew as Pooh.
“He could make you laugh if you were down. Put a smile on your face,” said friend and fellow volunteer fire fighter Joe Jones.
Jones grew up with the 37 year Arlie “Pooh” Hill. They worked for different volunteer fire departments but shared a close bond and it doesn’t surprise him that Hill paid the ultimate price by running into a burning home, with the intent to save a small child he thought was inside.
“Pooh was just being Pooh. He’s always been a true fireman. Been in his blood for many years,” said Jones.
Hill died Sunday at a Cincinnati hospital after developing an infection after fighting to survive burns that covered nearly his entire body.
“In 50 years we’ve never had an incident like this happen,” said Greg Bird.
Bird, a local newspaper editor, has taken on a second hat to serve as spokesperson for the Whitley City Fire Department, and shares the emotion that many have, in being devastated by the loss.
“We all knew it was possible for this day to come….but after 2 months we kept praying for one more day,” he said.
Bird says that Hill will be put on the Whitley City Fire Department’s ladder truck and that will be followed by numerous fire trucks and apparatus as he comes back home Tuesday afternoon.
“I would say every firefighter in McCreary County and surrounding counties will show up for that full honor processional,” said Bird.
Hill leaves behind a wife and two children that’s been the focus on numerous fund drives and donations. There’s talk of those becoming annual events.
“They have family and will have for the rest of their lives in the Whitley City Fire Department and firefighting community,” Bird said.
The processional is expected to leave Cincinnati about 10 a.m. Tuesday and arrive in Whitley City Tuesday afternoon.
Funeral services have been set for 2 p.m. Saturday at McCreary Central High School in Stearns, Ky.
Visitation will start 10 a.m. A private graveside service will take place that afternoon.