Living the Dream: Lake retiring after 28 years

by | September 13, 2018 5:00 am

Last Updated: September 11, 2018 at 3:21 pm

By WAYNE LAKE
Retiring Walterboro Fire Chief

I recall as a child having a small fleet of toy fire trucks, so it’s no surprise that the fire service has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. I am very proud to share that 28 years have been with the City of Walterboro Fire Department. I have been honored to serve as the fire chief for the past four years. It’s hard to believe how fast time flies!
The truth is that I have had many wonderful mentors over the years. Fire Chief Wayne Walker of Colleton Rural Fire Department District 1 gave me my first opportunity to serve as a volunteer firefighter. Jeff Laney, also with this department, took me under his wing in the early years. Jeff taught me how important it was to keep all the equipment clean and in working order. It didn’t take long before I realized that I had found my calling in life and I wanted a full time career in the fire service.
My father-in-law served as a captain with the City of Charleston Fire Department and suggested I also consider volunteering with his department. I volunteered on the weekends with CFD and soon was offered a job. While assigned to Station #2 in the heart of downtown historic Charleston, Captain Billy Jones, Engineer Stanley Cohen and Firefighter Rusty Haynes quickly taught me the ropes, so to speak. With the fast pace of a large city fire department, I learned so much in a very short amount of time.
One Sunday morning, just before worship service began, Ashton Syfrett, the fire chief for the Walterboro Fire Department, sat down beside me. He leaned over and asked me, “Why don’t you come home and serve the people here in your home town?” I guess you could say the rest is history. Chief Syfrett was the person that truly made the most positive impact on me over the years. His organization, preparation and humble dedication to the people of this community are second to none. For 10 years I had the privilege of serving with him before he retired.
Fire Chief Jack Lyons was next to take the helm at the Walterboro Fire Department. His passion for training and education challenged me to gain as much knowledge as possible.
A major shift to the public safety system was later introduced, merging the police and fire department. I learned a lot from that approach. One positive thing I learned from that experience was the cross-training opportunity can work if people have the desire, ability and commitment to serve.
Through thick and thin, I must say that I have been truly blessed to have served with some of the best firefighters over the years. A core group of us in the community have grown up serving together. Captain Paul Seigler, Captain Anthony “Zack” Harrison, Captain Chris Cook and Fire Marshal Chris Crosby have been the backbone of the department for many years. Wilson Murdaugh, Marshall Morehead, Justin Wilz, Michael Butler, James Coleman, Lamar Smith, Lance Shuman, Jared Jarvis and Eric Ferguson are the future. Darren Vaughn, Chad Spell, Billy Ballard, Al Lewis and Demetrius Gilyard have been a tremendous help along with all the other police offices.
With experience comes age, and that’s one thing that I brought to the attention of our city manager during a meeting four years ago when I became the fire chief. There was a need to recruit some younger people into the fire service that we can share our knowledge with before we step aside. A transition plan for the Walterboro Fire Department was developed, fine-tuned and implemented. This plan has prepared our firefighters by using education and training for the future to come. We are so blessed to have an outstanding group of firefighters, a wonderful city manager, an excellent mayor and City Council that truly care about the fire department and the people in our community.
Well, that’s my story in a nutshell. As this chapter in my life comes to a close, I want to thank my wife, Tammy, and son, Tyler, for supporting my dream of being a firefighter over the many years; my mom and dad for teaching me to have compassion for others; and last but not least, I want to thank God for granting me wisdom, knowledge and the opportunity to live the dream!
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

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