Fire chief Barham retiring after 42 years

  • Monday, July 7, 2014

Rob Gantt/Gazette Retired fire chief Jerry Barham (left) rests in a new rocking chair while Hanahan mayor Minnie Newman-Blackwell talks to a crowd at Barham's retirement party on June 30.

When Jerry Barham looks back over the last four-plus decades, he can know he always attacked his job without fear in his heart or any hesitation.

Now, the retired City of Hanahan fire chief has a new mission.

“He wants to see if he can get sick of fishing,” city administrator Johnny Cribb said. “He wants to test that concept.”

June 30 was Barham’s last day of public service with the city. He served the last 20 years as the fire chief in Hanahan. The previous years were split down the middle between Goose Creek and Hanahan.

“I guess I was fortunate enough to know when I was very young exactly what I wanted to do,” said Barham, who turned 61 on July 5. “I became a volunteer and then came up through the ranks, and worked my way through. It was just always something that fascinated me and helped the community.”

First, some rest is on the horizon and then Barham said he hopes not to miss any more family or friends milestones.

“I’ve always given everything to the fire department,” the Goose Creek resident said. “I’ve missed birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and all those sorts of things. Now, it’s time for my family.”

Barham is a husband of 36 years to Cheryl Barham and has three children, 32, 35 and 37, and nine grandchildren.

He was also active with Carolina Children’s Charity, a community organization that aims to fight the effects of birth defects and diseases.

“Firefighters are the heart of the charity and he’s been there 100 percent of the way,” CCC executive director Sonya Beale said. “ He’s always been very supportive and dedicated to the cause. He’s a good man. You don’t get much better than that. He’s a true Southern gentleman with a big heart and he’s helped a lot of people.”

Barham saw the role of firemen change over time.

The fire department was established with the mission of saving lives and protecting property by fighting fires. Although the fundamental mission remains the same, Barham and his men performed a much wider variety of duties.

They still combat fire, but now also respond to other emergency situations including vehicle extrications, medical emergencies, hazardous materials incidents, high-angle rescue, structural collapse, swift water rescue and any natural or man-made disasters.

“We’ve always said as far as cities are concerned, our citizens can do without the mayor and the city council,” Hanahan mayor Minnie Newman-Blackwell said. “One of the the things they can’t do without is a fire department, a police department and sanitation. Chief Barham has given his life for 42 years and he’s truly made a lot of difference in a lot of lives. I will always care and love him for what he’s done.”

In the interim, senior-level captains Jim Courtney, Brad Shipman, Mike Langan, and Buck Buchanan will fill Barham’s role until the city names a replacement.

“It’s all about the men in the service,” Barham said. “No chief could do anything without the support of the men, the mayor and the council. They’ve given us everything we’ve needed.”

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