Brantley Fire Chief Retires
Experience is priceless, built up only through long years of service, and few possess more in their profession than Brantley Volunteer Fire Department Chief Harry Driggers.
Earlier this year Driggers announced to the Brantley City Council that he plans to retire from his position at the end of 2019.
Now, as the end of his career approaches, Driggers took time to reflect on his time as a firefighter and the various challenges and successes of his tenure.
In total, he has spent 33 years with the Brantley Fire Department, first joining in March of 1986, and nearly 54 years total as a fire fighter.
He began his tenure at the bottom of the totem pole at the Ft. Rucker Fire Department.
“My brother was a fireman, and eventually became the fire chief in Elba. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He had a love for helping people and a love of serving his community,” Driggers explained.
Driggers joined the Ft. Rucker Fire Department in 1966, and went on to also serve as the chief of the Bullock Volunteer Fire Department for eight years.
“I was 20 years old when I joined. Right after I started, the captain gave me a five-gallon-bucket filled with water and some Ajax and told me to clean the cooler until he said to stop. I thought to myself, ‘are you crazy?’ But I was taught to respect people and to respect authority, and I did it. In my time as chief, I’ve tried to teach the same things. People may not always agree with me or I might even be wrong, but I’m still the chief,” he recalled.
Driggers worked for both paid and volunteer departments during his career, and noted that each presents unique challenges.
“A big difference is, as a supervisor at a paid department, you can tell people what to do. With a volunteer department, you ask them to do it. I’ve had some very good men at each department I’ve worked at,” he said.
Driggers said that it takes a “special person” to become a volunteer fire fighter.
“I would say to anyone considering it to make sure you want to be a volunteer. You may have to leave or miss events, you might have to get up from eating at a restaurant and leave. I would say to be loyal to your department and your community. It takes a special person to do the job,” he explained.
Since first pursuing his profession in 1966, Driggers has seen many changes take place both in technology and attitude.
“There have been a lot of changes as far as equipment, with a big one being the SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus). When I started originally, you would be called a ‘sissy’ for wearing one. Of course, we found out it was beneficial to us. Clothing and certainly equipment have come a long way,” Driggers said.
Driggers also praised the BVFD for maintaining an excellent ISO rating for many years.
“The department has maintained an ISO rating of 4 for 11 years. That’s hard to do for a volunteer department. I think we need 2.89 points to go to a 3,” he said.
An ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating represents a ‘Public Protection Classification’ (PPC) rating on a 1-10 scale.
With his retirement looming, Driggers reflected on the many, many emergency calls he responded to over the years.
“I have to thank God foremost because, during almost 54 years and probably 9,500 different types of emergencies I’ve gone to- I’ll just say that He put a hedge of protection around me. I’ve worked with wonderful mayors- like [Brantley] Mayor Bernie Sullivan- and city council members, and have realized the importance of helping people and helping the community,” Driggers said.
He went on to say that he will still be around to offer advice to the BVFD.
Chief Driggers’ retirement will, as of now, be effective in January 2020.