Fire marshal retires after 30 years
Gantt named Fire Inspector of the Year
The job of the fire marshal is to, in part, ensure buildings meet local fire code requirements.
And in the case that a building does burn, fire marshals slog through the debris to find the cause of the fire — in an effort to prevent future disasters.
Coweta County Fire Marshal Jimmy Gantt was recently named Fire Inspector of the Year by the Ga. Fire Inspectors Association. He was nominated for the honor by a field inspector of the Ga. State Fire Marshal’s Office. The vote included all the members of the Ga. Fire Inspectors Association.
Gantt received the award at a recent ceremony held at the state capitol.
“I was very honored,” said Gantt, who began working as a volunteer firefighter in 1981 and officially joined the fire department in 1983.
“It was a big surprise,” Gantt said of the honor. “I really wasn’t expecting it, especially from across the whole state.”
The award recognizes the marshal for his careful consideration of new construction plans, and the thorough inspection of existing buildings.
Building safety review includes ensuring proper escape routes are in place, access for emergency vehicles are available, hydrants are accessible, along with a host of other items needed to prevent fires and allow for the best possible scenario in case a fire occurs. Gantt or his assistant, Capt. Blaine Shirley, meet with developers before they submit their plans.
Codes are always changing, and keeping up with them is a continuous learning process.
“But it’s interesting,” Gantt said. “It keeps you busy."
Gantt was honored last week by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.
“I know sometimes you’ve had a really difficult job, where you've stood up for some issues concerning safety,” said Commissioner Paul Poole. “You hung in there and I appreciate that, because that protected us,” Poole said. “I appreciate that you’ve gone above and beyond.”
“I’m going to miss him,” said Chief Johnny Teeters. “Sometimes, you make people mad. You’re not telling them ‘You can’t do it,’” Teeter said. “You just can’t do it that way.”
Gantt, who is also an assistant chief, will be retiring from the Coweta County Fire Department at the end of February.
“I’ve kind of joked about going out while folks still like me,” he said, jokingly.
Gantt said he is excited about retirement, but he’s also nervous.
“I’m happy and I’m also sad. Because this has been my family for over half of my life,” Gantt said.
When Gantt left the U.S. Air Force in 1981, he lived in Grantville and was driving a tractor- trailer for PepsiCo. He began doing volunteer firefighter work at Station 11 in Grantville and liked it so much that when there were fire department job openings in 1983, he applied.
After volunteering for work at Station 11 in Grantville, Gantt knew preventing fires and fighting them was what he enjoyed.
He told his family he would stop driving a truck and start fighting fires.
In 1996, the Coweta County Fire Department created the position of training officer, allowing Gantt a unique position that he served until 2002. Later, Gantt served as battallion captain until becoming fire marshal upon the retirement of Darryl Ward.
Gantt has seen many changes in the CCFD in the past 30 years. In the early ‘80s, there were six stations that were manned 24 hours a day, five days a week. The other four stations were manned eight hours a day, five days a week.
Gantt remembers one fire on a Saturday on Millard Farmer Road. It took longer than expected for the volunteer firefighters to arrive. The following week, a meeting with county officials was held. The decision was made to man the six stations 24/7. The remaining stations would have no permanent staff, only volunteers.
Today, there are 16 stations manned 24/7.
“The guys have a lot better equipment and everything. The fire department is providing a higher level of service to the citizens now,” Gantt said. That includes the “advanced life support” engines that are at some fire stations to supplement the Coweta EMS ambulances.
Gantt knows personally how much the ALS engines can help those injured in rural areas of the county. When his stepdaughter was in a serious motorcycle accident, the ALS engine responded.
“Had it not been for that ALS engine being down there and the training the fire department had provided for those guys,” Gantt thinks she would have died.
“That is just one example of how the higher level of service and training” is helping Cowetans. “And I’m just one person that it has impacted,” he said.
Gantt said his favorite part of the job is working with people.
“I’m going to miss everybody here. It’s been great working with everybody. Not only here at the fire department, but throughout the whole county,” he said.
Gantt added that the support he has received, not only from Chief Teeters and Deputy Chief Todd Moore, but also from the county commissioners and county staff, has “been outstanding."
It will be a “big change not getting up and being up here at 6 or 6:30 every morning,” Gantt said.
“But one thing I’m not going to miss is 911 calling me at 1 or 2 in the morning and saying, ‘We need you over here.’"