Clarendon County Fire Department recognizes graduates, promotes members


MANNING - More than 100 family members, peers and friends attended the Clarendon County Fire Department's Oct. 2 Recruit Graduation and Promotion Ceremony that was held at the department's Station 1 Headquarters.

Showing his support of the county fire department, Third Circuit Court Judge Ferrell Cothran cooked his famous "chicken bog" for the event.

In her opening remarks, Clarendon County Fire Chief Frances Richbourg told the attendees that "it takes a special person" to be a firefighter.

"Remember that your training never stops," Richbourg told the recruits. "I encourage you to continue your education and participate in the skills, become proficient in your skills, and watch each other's backs. Understand that people's lives are in your hands when you respond to those calls."

Following a slide show that documented the recruits' training session, Capt. Jason Dennis moderated a roundtable discussion that featured five career firefighters that comprise more than 200 cumulative years of firefighting under their belts. Those participating in the question-and-answer session were Richbourg, former Clarendon County Fire Chief Carter Jones, newly appointed Assistant Fire Chief Jay Bruner, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Johnson and Capts. Ed Gamble and Dr. Robert Ridgeway III.

Jones, who has 52 years of firefighting experience, led off the roundtable session with a history of the Clarendon County Fire Department.

Jones said a need to provide fire protection in rural areas in the late 1970s led to the development of a countywide fire department. Jones said that while there was fire protection in the county's municipalities, the rural areas of the county were vulnerable.

Bruner was asked about what he considered his most "memorable" radio transmission.

The new assistant fire chief told of the time when he, along with two or three new firefighters, responded to a structure fire. With a smile, Bruner said he was a little nervous and the stress level was pretty much through the roof when he asked dispatch to send the power company to the site to shut off power to the structure.

While pulling the lines and trying to get things set up, Bruner said he grabbed the microphone and asked the dispatcher to notify the power company.

"I get back, '10-4 I need an address,'" Bruner added. "Well, I will tell you that I was not calm, and I will leave out some colorful language that I used on the radio that day I'm not so proud of, but I told them, 'Tell them that it's the only house on this road that's on fire.'"

Bruner said then-Chief Jones came on the radio and told them, "I think he's a little busy right now."

Ridgeway told the audience about his "most memorable" call. He said it occurred on Silver Road and involved fire ants, jumping out the back of the ambulance and the removal of clothing. But he assured the audience that by the time they arrived at the hospital he was properly attired.

Johnson gave the attendees some statistics on how important volunteers are to county fire departments.

Of the county's 163 firefighters, 127 are volunteers, Johnson said.

"It's huge," he added. "They make so much of an impact. It's amazing."

Johnson said Clarendon County has 37 career firefighters, 16 stations, 21 fire engines, three rescue units, six brush trucks, one ladder truck, two boats and eight command units.

The recruits that graduated were Cole Ard, Zach Byrd, Matthew Cartledge, Raymond Davis, Amber Dorriety, Tori Hodge, Cody Justice, Thad Kennedy, Sabrina Tackett and Burns Yarborough. Kennedy was also recognized as the only graduate to attend each of the training sessions. Yarborough was honored as the recruit with the highest test score, and Tackett was the recipient of the session's Leadership Award.

During the promotion ceremony, Battalion Chief Jay Bruner was promoted to assistant fire chief. Travis Floyd, Jamie Nance and Mark Thompson were promoted to captain, and Blake Johnson and Brandon Welch were promoted to lieutenant.