SCSFA Past President & Clarendon County Fire Chief Retires

SCSFA Past President & Clarendon County Fire Chief Retires

Long-time Clarendon County Fire Chief, Frances A. Richbourg, officially begins her retirement today from her 40 + years in the fire service. Chief Richbourg began her career as a volunteer firefighter in the late seventies when that department was in its infancy. She was attracted to the fire department for many reasons, but one area which captured her interest was helping former Chief, Carter Jones, with fire investigations. In the early 1980s, Chief Jones, hired her part-time to help build and grow that department, and in short order he promoted Richbourg to a full-time position.

After much training in fire investigations, Richbourg was hired by the late State Fire Marshal, Dick Campbell, to work in the newly formed Arson Control Team established by the State Fire Commission. It was here Richbourg honed her skills and became recognized as one of the most proficient and sought after fire investigators in the state.

After a few years working night and day all over the state, Miss Richbourg wanted to come back home and served her community in the fire department. Fire Chief Jones immediately found the funds to hire her as his Deputy Chief. Shortly after her return to her beloved fire department, State Fire Insurance Company provided the department with a scholarship for Richbourg to travel to Maine to be trained as a handler for the first arson detection canine in South Carolina.

Once her training was complete, she and Chief Jones developed an impressive team approach where every fire was investigated for its origin and cause. During the 1980s and 1990s, Clarendon County led the state in arson arrests and convictions. Chief Richbourg received nationwide recognition in 1995 when she and her black lab, “Widget”, helped crack the case of the church burnings by the Klu Klux Klan.

Chief Richbourg was also involved in state-wide matters when she was elected to the Executive Committee of the S. C. State Firefighters’ Association. After serving on that committee, Chief Richbourg was elected as the first female President in 1996 to lead South Carolina’s fire service. Under her leadership, Chief Richbourg was actively involved in legislation which allowed service dogs to stay in hotels and travel on public transportation.

After Chief Jones retired in 1999, Chief Richbourg resigned her position and went to work with the S. C. State Fire Academy as a Regional Coordinator in the Florence District. In 2002, Richbourg was asked to come back to the Clarendon County Fire Department as their Chief. She has served in this capacity for nearly 18 years.

During her time with the department, it has grown and operates out of 16 fire stations which protects 602 square miles and 32 miles of interstate. The ISO rating has been reduced twice under her leadership.

According to former Chief Carter Jones, “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. She will be missed, for sure, but her legacy will live on. The author John Maxwell writes about the necessary traits of a good leader…’posses integrity, does not participate in gossip, does not harm others, speaks out against wrong, honors others who walk in truth, keeps their word even at personal costs, isn’t greedy to gain at the expense of others, is strong and stable.’ That’s Chief Frances Richbourg!”

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