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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.