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Kingston honors local firefighters
Kingston honoring Bryan County firefighters. - photo by Ross Blair


Video of the presentation.

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Congressman Jack Kingston visited Bryan County firefighters Thursday to honor them for their efforts in extinguishing the Ware County fires last year.

Kingston presented members of the department with a certificate of appreciation from the state.

He also gave them a flag that has flown over the capitol. Six firefighters, including Chief Jim Anderson and Assistant Chief Otis Willis, were on hand as well as many Bryan County officials.

"We wanted to do something special to thank Bryan County firefighters for their participation in fighting the fires in Waycross and let them know they did not go unnoticed," Kingston said. "We had 44 different states with 3,300 volunteers down in that area fighting the fire. One of the things I picked up in talking to the other states is that they came here because Georgians like Bryan County were on the front line of it. In a time of emergency, firefighters do that sort of thing and yet, in the coastal area where we’re vulnerable to hurricanes and so forth, it’s a great investment for us to help someone else because it’s likely we could be next on the list."

"You couldn’t ask for anything better – to know that we’re appreciated at the state level," said firefighter Charlie Blair of the recognition. He pulled two tours in Ware County. "We often put our own family lives on hold to help others and that’s just a part of it. We didn’t expect this and it’s truly an honor."

"Our volunteers are unsung heroes," Bryan County Commissioner Rick Gardner said. "Helping Ware County was just one more example of this."

Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said much of the same and recognized the work they did on a local level last year.

"We’re very proud of our firefighters and we appreciate the state recognizing what we consistently see. They not only performed well in Waycross, but the North Bryan fire that followed as well. That was a big event for us because that was probably the biggest fire we ever had in Bryan County. They did a great job and Jim (Chief Anderson) did an outstanding job combining all these forces when 40 different departments came to Bryan County to help us fight the fires here. The fire got pretty close to the schools, so we were very fortunate to have the skilled men and women of Bryan County and other areas to control what could have been a devastating blow to the county."

Anderson said that during the Ware County fires, Bryan County had rotating crews down there on a 24 to 48 hour basis for approximately 3 weeks. He spent 35 days down there to help stage a command post.

Kingston said he flew over the devastation to see a lot of homes were saved, and the scorched land around the homes went to show the amazing work of "the brotherhood of first responders" which included the volunteers from Bryan County.

Bryan County firefighter Josh Hammack said this was mostly due to crews saturating each of the homes with water.

"I feel I had impact as well as the rest of the guys that went," Blair said. "We were there to protect homes and structures and that’s what we did. The community was real appreciative down there. I’d stop and go into a store to get a drink or something and they wouldn’t let me pay for anything. It felt good to get praise like that because we get overlooked a lot. I think the Ware County fires reminded people what we do and what we have to deal with."

"What was amazing was driving down to the fire scenes and looking out at the devastation the fires there caused and see people on the side of the road cheering for us as loud as they could and throwing flowers," Willis said. "I’ll never forget it - watching the fire coming at you and the cooperation between the different agencies. There was such a strong camaraderie. It was much of the same here in Pembroke for the local fires. We were just blessed that the conditions that evening were just right to put down the fire."

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