Three inducted to S.C. State Firefighters’ Hall of Fame

CarolinaFireJournal -

08/01/2012 -

Three individuals were inducted into the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Hall of Fame at the 2012 S.C. Fire Rescue Conference at Myrtle Beach in June. Their names are added to a list of men that were first selected in 1976. Selected were Chief Paul Blackwelder, Chief Alvin Payne and Chief Richard Waring.

The induction of an individual into the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Hall of Fame can be for a variety of reasons. Paramount in the selection criteria for this award are the nominee’s contributions to the fire service at levels beyond their local fire department. The individual should have clearly left their mark on the South Carolina Fire Service. The name of this individual should be recognizable by his/her peers, at a state or regional level, for actually participating in the improvement of the South Carolina Fire Service.


There is no limit to the number of individuals who can be inducted in one year, but the individuals inducted are expected to be of the highest quality and clearly worthy of recognition at the state level. Individuals must meet the following criteria:

  1. The nominee must be a member of the Association and must have been active in the South Carolina Fire Service for at least 15 years
  2. The nominee must have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the fire service beyond the local level. Participation in regional, state, and/or fire service endeavors are preferred. This may include active involvement in fire service legislation, codes, training, landmark state or regional fire service programs, etc.
  3. A South Carolina firefighter who dies in the line of duty will be inducted into the Hall of Fame automatically, independent of the criteria outlined above, provided the Subcommittee on Awards of the Executive Committee, finds no hard evidence that inducting the individual would discredit the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association

The S.C. Firefighters’ Hall of Fame is located in the Denny Auditorium of the SC Fire Academy.  The Hall of Fame was originally located at the S.C. Fire Academy Administration Building of the Airport Campus from1976 until 2003.  The new location was re-dedicated on October 20, 2011.

Chief Paul Blackwelder

Paula Ezzell, Chief Blackwelder’s daughter, had the following to say about growing up as the daughter of a fireman:

Chief Paul Blackwelder

“I grew up a fire department kid. The fire department has always been a vital part of my life. My daddy [Paul Blackwelder] joined the fire department when he was 17 years old. He became chief when I was six years old. I spent a lot of time at the fire department. I have been left alone at the church (which did not make mama happy) and dropped off with Mr. Potts at the fire department while daddy ran a call. My daddy missed school programs and he missed meals with us. The funny thing, we had several fires at home while growing up and for some mysterious reason daddy was never there!

“I tried to “help” at the fire department by participating in numerous fund raisers, folding letters requesting donations, going door-to-door to deliver letters requesting donations and any other chore I could find. The firemen and their wives became an extension of my family. I called several of them “Uncle” and “Aunt.” I also developed crushes on some of the younger firemen. I thought I was discreet but after I was older I was told that my crushes were obvious.

“Sometimes mama would complain about that “damn fire department” but she always saved daddy some supper when he had to leave in the middle of the meal. She would wake up when he got a call during the night (once when he was leaving and again when he got back home). She told me about being on dates with daddy and ending up sitting in the car on the side of the road while daddy fought a fire or helped at a wreck. Mama remains by his side and continues to be his quiet supporter even after 52 years of marriage.

“Daddy taught me to drive as we drove from dry hydrant to dry hydrant inspecting them. I learned to maneuver the red and white GMC pick-up truck throughout the fire district. He taught me a lot about life by his words and his example. He taught me how to help others – even when it means that you sacrifice something yourself. I have always been proud that both of us received the Senior Superlative in high school of “Most Dependable!”

“My brother spent much more time at the fire department. He became a fireman as soon as he was old enough and is currently the Fire Marshall in Lancaster County. I never became a fire fighter. I try to continue the legacy of helping others through my employment at the Lancaster County Department of Social Services. I did marry a volunteer fireman. I don’t think one ever ventures too far away once fire fighting becomes a part of your life.

“On June 7, 2012, my family and I witnessed Daddy being honored for all his years of dedication to the fire service. He was inducted into the South Carolina State Firefighter’s Hall of Fame.

“Chief Ken Kerber from Fort Mill Fire Department and President of the SC Firefighter’s Association presented Daddy with the Certificate. Chief Kerber said, “In my home area, Chief Blackwelder was somewhat of a fixture during my career. He started with the Indian Land Fire Department in 1955. Then a year later, he was one of the founding members of the Pleasant Valley Fire Department. From firefighter to engineer to captain, assistant chief, to chief in 1973, he held all the positions at one time during his career. He was chief at Pleasant Valley from 1973 until 2009 when he retired. He was an original member of the Lancaster County Fire Commission (and set many of the SOPs for that group) and was active in the development of his department’s Safety Officer role. Many folks knew Chief Blackwelder from his instructional days as part of the Fire Brigade with Celanese Industrial Fire Training School for over 20 years. Chief worked for Hoescht Celanese for 39 years. For 54 years, Chief Blackwelder was always a part of our region of the state’s fire service and we are honored today to induct him into the SC State Firefighter’s Hall Of Fame.”

“It was a huge honor to receive this award, not only for daddy, but for our entire family. To protect and serve as a volunteer firefighter requires a huge commitment — not only from the person but the entire family. Whether you are the fireman, the spouse, or the children, you should all be proud of the commitment that the family is making to the community.”

Chief Alvin Payne

Chief Alvin Payne joined the Myrtle Beach Fire department in 1979. In his 33 years with the department he rose through the ranks to become the city’s fire chief in April 2002.

Chief Alvin Payne

Chief Payne was promoted from a firefighter to a fire engineer in 1982. In 1987 he was promoted to lieutenant and in 1992 he was promoted to a shift captain position. In 1996 that position was upgraded to a battalion chief position. He was a shift commander for 10 years before being promoted to the chief’s position in April of 2002. He was chosen from over 150 applicants from across the country.

During his tenure as chief, the Myrtle Beach Fire Department improved their ISO rating from a Class 3 to become the 42nd Class 1 department in the country.

He has twice been awarded the department’s Officer of the Year Award, in 1991 he was awarded the city’s Public Safety Employee of the Year Award, and in 1992 he received the South Carolina’s Meritorious Action Award. He is currently Third Vice President of the South Carolina Fire Chiefs’ Association, a Past President of the S.C. Firefighters Association, a member of the South Carolina Firefighter Mobilization Committee, a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, a member of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs, and a member of the South Carolina Fire Chiefs’ Association.

Chief Richard Waring

Carter H. Jones, Chief (Retired) Clarendon County Fire Department had the following to say about Chief Waring:

Chief Richard Waring (pictured middle)

“I wish to lend my support to the nomination of Chief (Retired) Richard Waring of Summerville for the Hall of Fame designation. I have know Chief Waring for many, many years and have worked with him on various committees since the early 1970s.

“Chief Waring joined the department in 1969 as a volunteer firefighter and became a career member around 1970. It was 1972 when “Ricky” was appointed Chief of Department and held that position for some 20 years until his retirement. During his tenure as chief, Ricky became a certified fire instructor and taught firefighters from all over the state. Ricky also served many statewide committees — The Fire School Committee, Actuary Committee, Legislative Committee and was even appointed to serve on the South Carolina State Fire Commission. The former chief continued to serve his community after retirement as Public Safety Director and City Council member.

“Chief Waring has ‘paid his dues’ both to his community as well as his state and it is time for him to be recognized by the association for his contributions. It has been a joy for me to have worked along side of him through our careers in the fire service, and I appreciate both his friendship and the professionalism afforded to me during those days.”

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