You go, I go.
It was a pact West Fargo firefighters Perry McClellan and Rory Jorgensen made when they joined the West Fargo Fire Department as volunteer firemen.
Twenty-five years, thousands of calls and the transition from one department to separate city and rural departments later, and the longtime friends kept to their promise, retiring together on Dec. 31.
Jorgensen served as the assistant chief of the now city department and as the chief of the now Rural West Fargo Fire Department for two years. McClellan moved to the rank of captain for the city department and served on the board of directors for both rural and city fire departments.
The West Fargo Fire Department was formed as an all-volunteer department in 1940 and in 2018, it transitioned to a hybrid department with volunteer and paid-on call firefighters. On Jan. 1, it split into two separate departments, with the hybrid crews becoming an official part of the city of West Fargo and the rural department remaining a board- governed all-volunteer department covering the rural areas of West Fargo.
Steve Barron, a battalion chief for the city, was chosen to serve as the rural department's fire chief.
"He has about 22 years of experience. He's very deserving of that role," Jorgensen said of Barron.
Jorgensen said the two men knew each other before joining the department on the same day in 1994 and became good friends. They decided if one or the other left the fire department, the other would follow.
"We just made a pact that if one of us got off, for any reason, the other one would get off," Jorgensen said.
He said while McClellan, a retired U.S. Army and National Guardsman, was serving in Iraq, if he hadn't returned to the West Fargo Fire Department, Jorgensen wouldn't have either.
McClellan said the two men considered retirement a few times as they neared 20 years of service, but as they reached a quarter-century of service, they decided now was the time to retire.
Jorgensen noted the tremendous growth the city has seen in just two decades. The city's population has not only grown exponentially, so have the calls the fire department responds to.
"We seen a lot of change in the department from 150 calls a year, then we couldn't believe when we saw 300 calls. Now there are 2,000," McClellan said.
Together, they cleaned out their lockers at the fire station on the same day.
Jorgensen and McClellan are far from retirement in their full-time jobs and both plan to remain in the community.
"I love West Fargo. I grew up here, lived here my whole life," Jorgensen said. "West Fargo is a great, safe community and I love it here, not only the fire department but the police and sheriff's office, everyone is so good."
"The fire personnel are all like a second family; they truly are. If you need help or assistance they'd be the first to be there," McClellan said. "You won't find a better group of men and women in this community than the West Fargo Fire Department. It was tough leaving that, but they have good leadership, awesome members and support staff."
Both said they plan to visit the fire department when invited back for annual meetings and big events. It's a tradition of the fire department to invite back retired members.
"It will be good to go back. You can't fully walk away without missing it," McClellan said.