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SC FIRE SERVICE Leadership Spotlight: Norman Knight (Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue)

Rank

Fire Chief

Fire Department

Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue

County

Georgetown-Horry Counties

Department Type

Combination

Fire Service Experience

I began my career in 1979 as a FF/Dispatcher with the St. Matthews Fire Department in St. Matthews, SC. I became their Fire Chief in 1982. I served there until 2000 when I moved to Murrells Inlet to become Fire Chief of the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District.

What originally drew you to the fire service?

A place to go every third day to rest from my other 3 jobs that I held during that time. Insurance, a weekly check, and retirement benefits was the drawing cards. I did not intend to stay this long but as happens to so many others, it got into my blood. Looking back, I believe I was called to did this job.

What drives you to continue in the fire/emergency services?

The people who work with me and for me and the members of this community who live and visit Murrells Inlet and Garden City Beach year round.

As you progressed through the ranks, what hurdles/challenges have you faced?

The changes in the fire service over the past 40 years. Equipment, procedures, tactics and the men and women who call this job a career just to mention a few.

If you could give any advice to young/new officers, what would you tell them?

Never quit learning how to do this job better, work hard to make it better, and never lose sight that this is a calling that not everyone can or will answer. Develop an attitude that you are too blessed to be stressed and carry that with you both on and off duty.

What are some personal highlights of your career?

First was when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. He has provided me with everything I have in my life and I am grateful to him for that. Second was when I married the love of my life Yvonne. Third was when we gave birth to our daughter, Summer and our son, Lee. Forth was when our granddaughter, Anna, and our grandson, Henry were born. Fifth would have to be that I have been allowed to work this career for some 40 years now. I have been honored to have been able to serve the fire service through the chairs of the SC State Association of Fire Chiefs', SC State Firefighters' Association, Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs, The SC Emergency Preparedness Association, Calhoun County Firefighters' Association, and Horry-Georgetown Fire Chiefs Association. I am proud to say that I have spent my entire career with 2 departments, St. Matthews Fire and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue. I was named SMFD Firefighter of the Year in 1986, Calhoun County Firefighter of the Year in 1987, received the Fritz Turner Award in 1993, made a Life Member of the State Fire Chiefs in 1990, and inducted into the SC Firefighters' Association Hall of Fame in 2004. I have also served on numerous church committees during that time.

Are there any department spotlights you would like to share? 

We are a combination department that is serving a rapidly growing population that includes residents and visitors. We provide comprehensive fire, EMS, and rescue services and run out of 4 stations in a 25 square mile service area. We have some of the most dedicated and hard working women and men as you will find in the fire service and I am beyond proud that I have been able to lead them up to this point.

SC FIRE SERVICE Leadership Spotlight: Billy Gibson (Crosswell Fire District - Pickens County)

Rank

Fire Chief

Fire Department

Crosswell Fire District

County

Pickens

Department Type

Combination

Fire Service Experience

I began as a volunteer FF with City of Easley in January 1988, and was hired full time in October of 1988. I was promoted to Lt in 1995 and Captain in 2001. In 2003, I had the opportunity to assist in starting the Vineyards FD in Pickens County. In 2004 I became the Anderson County Fire Chief, and stayed there until November of 2013. I was hired by Pickens County in 2013 to establish the Pickens Rural Fire Department, and I was transferred to Crosswell in October 2018. Currently Chief at Crosswell.

What originally drew you to the fire service?

My father was a volunteer FF for the City of Easley. I began running calls with him when I was around 11 and it just always seemed a natural thing for me to be a firefighter. His influence and the leadership of the department led me to the fire service as a career.

What drives you to continue in the fire/emergency services?

The desire to see our profession advance in the level of service that we provide, and the desire to see young firefighters prepare themselves to be the leaders of tomorrow. In 30 years there have been so many changes, and I want to be a part of those changes as we progress.

As you progressed through the ranks, what hurdles/challenges have you faced?

As a young officer, like most, I had to do a lot of OJT, and trial and error. We had good leadership but there was still not a formal career track that could have saved a lot of us some heartache and spared us some gray hair. On the plus side, it provided an experience level in “the real world” that have proved invaluable. As a Chief, the single biggest hurdle for most any department is the funding, and that issue is a root cause for almost every other issue we face. We cannot provide adequate salaries to remain competitive without adequate funding. We cannot provide adequate training, or equipment without adequate funding. We cannot provide adequate service without adequate personnel, training and equipment.

If you could give any advice to young/new officers, what would you tell them?

I would advise any new officer to get as much education as possible. Learning how to navigate budgets, along with personnel and legal issues can be a career killer and education can help alleviate some of that. Second, remain humble and remember where you came from and listen to your folks. Sharing a good cup of coffee with your crew can speak volumes to them while providing you a lot of insight into your operation. Finally, do not be afraid to say, "I was wrong." Unfortunately, it took me a while to learn and master this one, and it caused me a lot of headache as a young officer.

What are some personal highlights of your career?

I am married to my Sweet P and we have a 5 year old little preacher man who keeps us on our toes. Those 2 are my life. We currently serve Rock Springs Baptist Church where we enjoy singing in the choir and worshipping with fellow believers. I am a past president of the South Carolina State Firefighters Association, and currently serve as President of the Pickens County Fire Chiefs’ Association. I am also and adjunct instructor for the SCFA. I am proud to have had the opportunity to actually start a fire department from scratch. Pickens Rural FD had 3 plots of ground and nothing more when I was hired and along with a great staff and council support, we had a fully functional fire department within a year. I have had the opportunity to work with some great mentors from throughout the state in my career.

Are there any department spotlights you would like to share? 

Croswell FD was established as an independent fire department in 2009. It covers around 23 square miles with a population of 9500. The fire department covers approximately 3800 properties along with 5 miles of CSX Railroad and provides water response to the Saluda River and Saluda Lake. The current staffing is 6 full-time FF’s with a volunteer roster of 17.

Fire Department Spotlight: westminster fire department

Department Name 

Westminster Fire Department

Department County 

Oconee

Year Established

1908

Department Type 

Combination

Demographics and Population Served 

City 2,800 Response District 11,500

What type of services are offered by the department? 

Fire Response

First-Responder Response

Fire Chief 

Micheal Smith

Number of Officers 

4

Number of Firefighters 

15

Number of Stations 

1

Average Annual Call Volume 

700

Is there anything unique about the department?

We are a small town city fire department and we are contracted by the county to provide fire protection in the unincorporated area outside the city limits.