PETERSBURG, Va. – Petersburg Fire Chief T.C. Hairston has been with the company for 36 years, and he announced his retirement after a City Council meeting to tackle the cities major budget deficit.
"I've been here for 36 years, I'm 62 years old,” Hairston said. “I think it's time for me to start doing some of the things I want to do for me."
Despite the announcement, Hairston was back to the daily grind within 12 hours; meeting with firefighters to discuss the future of the fire department and the challenges they still face.
The last few months of his nine at the helm of the Petersburg Fire Department have been challenging.
"I mean it's been tough but the City has been down before and it's always rebound but it's been really tough,” Hairston said.
Up until Tuesday night, Hairston was facing more than a dozen firefighters losing their jobs, and a fire station closing because of a $12 million budget deficit.
"I did go into the meeting not knowing what they were going to vote,” he said. In the end the firefighters keep their jobs and the fire station will stay open, but Hairston said he knows serious cuts have got to be made.
In the end, the firefighters keep their jobs and the fire station will stay open, but Hairston said he knows serious cuts have got to be made.
"For me, as the Fire Chief and looking at what's best for the citizens of Petersburg, I think the cuts in administration would be more admirable than to cut the boots on the ground, firefighters."
While jobs have been saved, new breathing devices were recently repossessed and new turnout gear is just days away from the same fate if a $32,000 payment isn't made.
"I'm confident the city will find the money, I'm confident the city will find the money in reference to the turnout gear also,” Hairston said.
Thinking back over his time in the department, Hairston said his greatest accomplishment came just a few months ago.
Petersburg got a new insurance rating for those who own homes and businesses in the city.
"The fact we got an ISO rating of two, which is the second highest rating that you can get in the nation,” he said. “And we are one of only 197 fire departments out of 48,000 that has a rating of two.”
Chief Hairston's last day is set for December 31, and he plans to accomplish a lot of things still -- in respect to finding ways for his department to cut costs.
Some of the trucks are expected to arrive this fall, but Hairston doesn't know if the city still has the money set aside to pay for them.