The History of the Covington Fire Department
The Covington Fire Department held their first regular meeting in the city council chambers on the evening of November 22, 1909. On a motions duly seconded, Mr. J.T. Swann was made and elected the first Fire Chief of the City of Covington Fire Department.
The Covington Fire Department, under the direction of Chief J.T. Swann, consisted of two reel companies and one hook and ladder company. It was not until January 3, 1910 at a regular meeting with Mayor Charles G. Smith presiding and council members R.P. Lester, J.E. Phillips, R.E. Everitt, J.R. Stephenson, L. Robinson, and J.L. Callaway present that the Covington Fire Department was officially recognized. At this meeting, J.T. Swann was appointed Fire Chief. J.O. Bradshaw, J.E. Taylor, and H.T. Huson were appointed Captains of the hose reels and hook and ladder. Mayor Smith appointed a standing committee for the fire department, which consisted of J.R. Stephenson, Luke Robinson, and J.L. Callaway.
At a called meeting of the Covington Fire Department on July 24, 1910, the members of the Covington Fire Department saw the need for an additional reel company and the election of an Assistant Fire Chief , and Company 4 was formed. The roster of the officer and members of the Covington Fire Department was presented to and received approval of the City Council on March 6, 1911. A list of these men is as follows:
Company #1 Reel
Hook and Ladder
Company #4 Reel
(Midway and North Covington)
L.L. Flowers, Captain
Will Taylor (African American)
W.A. Heard, Captain
Alford Morris (African American)
J.R. Vining, Captain
J. A. Burney
H.T. Husan, Captain
Charlie Brady (African American)
No compensations were given the firemen for their services until February 22, 1922 when the Mayor and City Council voted to pay the Chief at the rate of $100.00 per year, the Assistant Chief at the rate of $50.00 per year, and the firemen to be exempted from paying street tax for the year which they were appointed to serve.
In 1919, the Fire Department was authorized by the Mayor and Council a Ford truck with a hitch to pull the hose reels, which was previously hand drawn.
On February 5, 1923, the Mayor and Council duly assembled voted “to accept the bid from American Lafrance Fire Truck Company, $1500.00 to be allowed for the old fire truck, $2000.00 cash when the truck is delivered and four notes for $2250.00 at 6% interest to be paid in four years.”
The 1923 American Lafrance was a 500-Gallon per minute pumper, chain driven with wooden wheels and hard rubber tires. The truck was gasoline powered. This was the first motor driven fire truck purchased by the City of Covington.
The year 1925 was a very important time in the history of the Covington Fire Department. At the first regular council meeting in 1925, the Mayor and Council voted to elect Mr. V. E. Bouchillon as fire truck operator and caretaker of the fire truck and to pay him $75.00 per month for his duties. Thus, Mr. V.E. Bouchillon was the first paid fireman for the City of Covington. Mr. Bouchillon remained the fire truck driver from 1925 until 1942 except 1929, 1930-32, when he was replaced by Mr. F.H. Wright.
On January 22, 1925 fire hydrants and cut off valves were installed around the City Square, the same year the paving on the Square began.
On April 6, 1925 the first telephone was installed in the firehouse. The firehouse was located in the structure where “The Fire House” (Bob Rutland) is located today.
In 1933, the compensation for the fire truck driver was increased by furnishing him living quarters, water and electricity not to exceed $2.50 a month.
On June 15, 1939, the Mayor and Council voted to purchase an additional piece of fire equipment. They voted to purchase a fire truck with Peter Pirsch Equipment on a Chevrolet chassis for the sum of $3000.00. The fire truck is still in service today as a parade truck.
Mr. F. H. Wright remained the fire truck driver until January 7, 1947 when Mayor and City Council elected Rodney Thomas Floyd as fire truck driver.
The years 1954 and 1957 were very important in the history of the Covington Fire Department. In 1954, Calvin Fincher was hired giving the city and additional fire truck driver and again in 1957 two additional men, Jack Parker and Clayton Bailey were hired. This increased the number of truck operators to four men.
On May 6, 1957, the Mayor and Council voted to appoint Rodney Thomas Floyd as Fire Chief. This action made Chief Floyd the first full-time paid Fire Chief of the Covington Fire Department.
The Covington Fire Department moved to a new facility early 1960. The facility located at 2111 Conyers Street is the future location of the Police Department and previous location of City Hall. This move marked the beginning of the growth of the Covington Fire Department.
Under the direction of N.S. Turner as Mayor and Chief Floyd, the fire department continued to grow in manpower and equipment . In August 1966, with the addition of more paid firemen, Jack Parker was appointed as Assistant Fire Chief.
Chief Floyd continued in his capacity as Fire Chief until July 1972 when he retired after 25 1/2 years of service with the City of Covington. After Chief Floyd’s retirement, Jack Parker was appointed Fire Chief and Whatley E. Curtis was appointed Assistant Fire Chief on September 26, 1972.
On March 12, 1976 Michael Turner became the first African American firefighter to be compensated for his work. Turner retired in 2014.
On December 8, 1982, the citizens of Covington supported the Covington Fire Department in passing a Fire Bond Referendum. The referendum allowed the construction a new fire department headquarters station, the purchase of a 100-ft. aerial platform ladder truck and the funds to accomplish the necessary requirements to lower the department insurance classification from Class 6 to a Class 4. The Covington Fire Department had maintained a Class 6 since 1939. On November 1, 1988, the department classification was reduced to a Class 4. Newt S. Biggers was appointed Deputy Chief of Training and Don T. Floyd was appointed Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal on May 2, 1983.
Upon the organization of the Covington Fire Department in 1909, the citizens of Covington depended on volunteers to protect their lives and property. Since December 12, 1969, when Dr. W.L. Dobbs was elected Mayor, the Covington Fire Department has made a gradual change from an all volunteer department to a full paid department.
Chief Parker continued in his capacity as Fire Chief until his retirement on December 30, 1992. Whatley E. Curtis was appointed Fire Chief February 3, 1993.
Chief Curtis continued in his capacity as Fire Chief until his retirement on February 3, 1999.
Don T. Floyd was sworn in as Fire Chief on January 5, 1999.
In August of 2003, the Covington Fire Department became the 4th department in the state of Georgia and the 89th in the world to be recognized as an accredited agency by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI).
Chief Floyd received the Chief Fire Office Designation from the Commission of Chief Fire Office Designation, being only the 13th in the State and the 113th in the world to achieve this distinction.
The Department was accreditated in August 2008 through the CFAI, and the Fire Chief was re-designated as a Chief Fire Officer.
In June of 2011, Chief Floyd retired from the Covington Fire Department after 39 years of service.
John J. McNeil was sworn in as Fire Chief on June 6, 2011.
In March of 2014, the Department was once again re-accredited through the CFAI. Shortly thereafter in April of 2014, the Department improved its ISO rating from a class 3 to a class 2.
In September of 2014, John J. McNeil resigned as Fire Chief, and Deputy Chief David Gunter served as Interim Chief until a new Fire Chief could be chosen. On March 2, 2015, Elliot Stoney Bowles became the Department’s new Fire Chief. On July 2, 2018 Jeremy Holmes, a 19-year Covington Fire Department veteran was named as the next Fire Chief.
With Ronnie Johnston as Mayor, Leigh Anne Knight as City Manager and Jeremy Holmes as Fire Chief, the City of Covington maintains a Class 2 paid fire department consisting of 48 trained professional firefighters. The Administrative staff consists of a Fire Chief, two Deputy Chiefs who serve as Operations Chief and Fire Marshal respectively, (2) FMO’s, who work under the Fire Marshal’s supervision, a Division Chief of Training, and an Accreditation Program Coordinator.