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Chief looks back at career, department history

Protecting lives and property

POSTED: February 1, 2012 2:02 p.m.
Photo by Caitlyn Boza/

Chief Vernon Rushing stands next to the department's ladder trucks.

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Vernon Rushing has been fighting fires in Bryan County for more than 40 years. 
He joined the Richmond Hill Fire Department as a volunteer in 1968, just a few months after graduating from Richmond Hill High School.
Now, he’s chief of the department.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter and a public servant,” said Rushing, who also served in the Georgia National Guard for 33 years. “When I was in high school, I saw a fire truck and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ It’s just something that once it gets in your blood, it stays there.”
Rushing, 62, has watched Richmond Hill grow from a small rural town to a dynamic community with more than 10,000 residents, and he’s helped the city adapt to its changing safety needs.
“When I first started in this town, we didn’t have one red light and not but a couple hundred people lived here,” he said. “Now the town has grown, commercial business has grown, homes have grown, and the fire department has had to grow right along with it.”
Firefighters who work with Rushing on a daily basis respect his experience and long-standing history with the community.
“It’s good to work for a guy who has so much knowledge and experience about what we do,” said Richmond Hill firefighter David Williams. “It gives me confidence in the decisions we have to make every day.”
The department now has a team of six full-time firefighters, two inspectors, 12 volunteers and more than $2.5 million in equipment dedicated to protecting the people and property of Richmond Hill.
Rushing and his team respond to many different kinds of emergency situations, including fires, medical emergencies, vehicular accidents and public service calls.
“We do a little bit of everything,” said Rushing. “It goes from changing smoke detectors in people’s homes to fixing light bulbs in the trucks to going into burning buildings. You just never know what’s going to happen that day, and everyone needs to know how to handle everything.”
In 2011, the department responded to more than 1,200 calls, 70 percent of which were medical emergencies.
Rushing said that in addition to responding to emergency situations, the department also dedicates time and resources to preventing them.
“Public safety education is one of our most important goals. We see a lot of children in the schools, a lot of adults and seniors, and we try to teach them how to change smoke detectors, clean out their dryer vents — things they need to know to stay safe.”
Rushing enjoys golfing, fishing and being with his family during his free time. He intends to retire eventually, but he doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.
“Maybe in 10 or 15 years I’ll retire, but I reckon it’s more like I’ll be running around to fires in my wheelchair,” he said. “ And that’s just fine with me.”

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