2019-02-08 / News

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins celebrates 40 years of service


Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and members of the Columbia Fire Department pose for a picture after Mayor Steve Benjamin proclaimed February 2019 as Chief Aubrey Jenkins month, recognizing Chief Jenkins’s 40 years of service. Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and members of the Columbia Fire Department pose for a picture after Mayor Steve Benjamin proclaimed February 2019 as Chief Aubrey Jenkins month, recognizing Chief Jenkins’s 40 years of service. Aubrey Jenkins has been a part of the Columbia Fire Department for 40 years. At the February 5 Columbia City Council meeting, city council recognized the fire chief for his service by proclaiming February 2019 as Chief Aubrey Jenkins month.

“It was a total surprise to me,” Jenkins said. “I really appreciate that they took the time to recognize my years of service. It meant so much to have that recognition.”

Jenkins joined the Columbia Fire Department in 1979 after one of his friends joined. It wasn’t until fighting his first fire, a week into the job, Jenkins began to understand the importance of the fire department. From then on, he set out to learn all he could about fire.

“I didn’t start out wanting to be a firefighter; it just morphed into that,” Jenkins said. “If you are going to be a public servant, you do it because you want to help people, and that was my whole attitude. I realized I was here to help. As I look back over the years, I just appreciate the city allowing me to work here and help people. That’s what it’s all about.”

A lot has changed in the 40 years Jenkins has been a part of the Columbia Fire Department from requirements for fire protection devices to seal detectors to fire alarms. Jenkins said even the way his department fights fires is different.

“Fires burn hotter and faster. You have to be on top of it to fight it,” Jenkins said.

In February 2010, Jenkins was promoted to interim fire chief. The next year the interim label was removed. For anyone who has ever heard Jenkins speak at a neighborhood meeting, they know fire prevention education is important to the chief.

“Education is key,” Jenkins said. “We would much rather prevent a fire than go put one out.”

One of the best indicators to how well a fire department is doing is the ISO fire insurance rating. Departments are rated on a scale from 10 to 1, with 1 being the best. The Columbia Fire Department has a Class One ISO rating. Jenkins broke it down even further saying the city got a 5.45 rating out of a 5.5.

While the relationships with the city council and the police department are vital for Jenkins and the fire department, an even more important relationship is the one with residents.

“Our relationship with the community should always be strong; they are the people we serve,” Jenkins said. We need to attend to their needs at every turn. It’s very important to be attentive and engaged with the community.”

Jenkins is extremely proud of the friendships he has built inside and out of the department. He said one of his greatest joys is being able to calm someone who is going through an emergency.

During Tuesday’s recognition, Jenkins received an engraved pair of fire fighter boots and the key to the city. As he was speaking to council, he thanked his wife and son for their support.

He has received numerous awards and honors during his time with the fire department and currently serves as second vice president of the State Fire Chiefs Association.

Jenkins said in terms of what the future holds, the association is looking at ways to improve fire service. He believes more emphasis will be put on education and fire protection, especially with sprinklers, smoke alarms, and CO alarms.

In the near future, the Columbia Fire Department will begin its smoke alarm blitz where it will hand out 1,000 smoke alarms to residents across Richland County.

Jenkins said he is not sure how much longer he will be with the fire department. Regardless of how long that is, there is no doubt the fire department and the city is in good hands with Jenkins as fire chief.

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