Stepping back in time 45 years, one might hardly recognize Hall County Fire Services when it was first established.
On Dec. 14, 1970, the department’s first fire station on Athens Highway opened with 17 employees and two fire trucks.
Now employing 371 personnel at 16 fire stations around the county, Hall County Fire Services serves about 190,000 people across 429 square miles.
“Over the past 45 years, there’s been a lot of sacrifices made by the people who have served here, and we want to acknowledge that today and show a little appreciation,” said Fire Chief Jeff Hood, following a commemorative event Friday afternoon at the Hall County Emergency Services Complex in Gainesville.
Former Fire Chief Mike Satterfield, who was also in attendance Friday, said it was indeed a milestone.
“There’s been miraculous change here from 1970 to 2015,” said Satterfield, who served from 1983-2004. “And, it’s all because of the support from citizens, the commissioners and the down-to-earth people who work and live here and support this community. When you put all that together, it really makes a big difference.”
Other fire chiefs over the years have included Larry Williams, 1971-1980; Dick Taylor, 1980-1983; and David Kimbrell, 2004-2014.
During the gathering, Deputy Fire Chief Chad Black recounted a story about one of the first calls to the fire station on Athens Highway.
“Somebody called in on one of the first calls and said, ‘My house is on fire.’” Black said. “Back then, dispatch didn’t have the ability to trace the call. When (the dispatcher) asked ‘Where is the fire?’ The caller said, ‘in the kitchen,’ and hung up. (Firefighters) had to wait for them to call back.”
Since those early days, Hall County Fire Services has now grown to the seventh largest fire department in Georgia. Fire personnel now respond to 21,500 incident responses per year.
“One thing that hasn’t changed in all that time,” Hood said, “is the tradition of courage, commitment and dedication to saving people’s lives and property. That’s what this department is all about, and that hasn’t changed since day one.”