Chief Frances Richbourg’s legacy

Chief Frances Richbourg’s legacy

Retired Clarendon County Fire Chief Frances Richbourg’s history with the fire service is storied, a career full of firsts. Richbourg laid the groundwork for future female firefighters to hold positions of influence and power, paving the path as a trailblazer and legendary leader.

“I’ve always been an outdoors person,” said Richbourg, referring to her time working on a farm, herding cattle and tending to horses. “Working in the fire service was a natural progression.”

Richbourg’s impact on the South Carolina fire service began in early 1980s when she was hired part-time by then Clarendon County Fire Chief Carter Jones to assist with investigations and growing the department. Her career would pull her in different directions all over the state, but she always found herself coming back home to Clarendon County.

“I was born and raised here, know a lot of the folks in the county and always had good friends and family here,” she said. “It’s a really great place.”

Jones and Richbourg became very close over the years and their bond has remained strong.

“Chief Richbourg is one of a kind…a leader, an innovator, an aggressive and skillful firefighter, and most of all a Christian lady who loves her firefighters and her community,” said Jones.

In 2002, after a Richbourg spent a few years traveling the state for various organizations honing her craft as a top-notch fire investigator, she returned once again to Clarendon County, this time as the county’s first female Fire Chief. She held the title for nearly two decades.

In another first-of-its-kind achievement, Richbourg was elected as the first female President of the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association in 1996 after serving on the Executive Committee.

“If you’re aspiring to move up in the ranks, the best thing you can do is get the training that is available and necessary for the position that you want, and then do the very best you can at everything that you do,” said Richbourg, offering words of wisdom to the next generation of leaders.

“Treat everyone appropriately, make sure that the people that serve under you are well taken care of, and that everyone is prepared to make that move. Take classes that increase your knowledge for the next step and don’t ever stop training.”

Read more about Chief Richbourg’s history with the South Carolina fire service.


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