Quite a few faces stand out to Fire Chief Randy Bratcher from his 38 years with the Anderson City Fire Department.
The face of a 2-year-old he saved from a swimming pool on his way home from work.
The four people’s faces he saw in a wrecked car on a Halloween night.
The faces he got to in time. And those he couldn’t save.
Bratcher, a 63-year-old from Honea Path, doesn’t linger on the bad but cherishes the good.
Dec. 17, marked his last day with the department, but his colleagues joke he’ll still be around. Volunteering and helping others is who he is, and they expect he’ll always do that.
He was honored at a City Council meeting Dec. 13 night for his years as an engineer, sergeant, and captain— to name a few roles.
His work in the community includes:
- South Carolina Fire Academy Instructor
- Chief of the Williford Volunteer Fire Department
- Assistant coordinator and founding member of Technical Rescue Team
- Originator of the Anderson County Haz Mat Team
- Project Director of the Anderson-sponsored Upstate Incident Management Team
And while he’s retiring as city fire chief, he doesn’t plan on retiring from those other positions any time soon.
His greatest passion, volunteer firefighting, started in 1975 when he was working in Williford. He’s been the chief there for over thirty years.
“The volunteer fire system, of course, that’s always been my passion, you do that to help the people in the community,” Bratcher said. “We’re the first people that that person in trouble sees, and it makes a difference in the community.”
One of the highlights of his career has been working side by side with his wife, Miriam, on the technical rescue team.
When he was on the Fire Fighters Legislative Committee for five years, they were able to pass a cancer bill for volunteers and career fire fighters.
When he was interim chief in 2016, the department purchased a 105-ft ladder truck, new engine and a lot of new equipment that played a part in boosting the city’s Insurance Services Office Inc. rating from 2 to 1.
Bratcher also helped lead the city’s COVID-19 response, guiding his team to play a critical role in the “Anderson Strong Promise” campaign supplying educational materials, masks and hand sanitizer to the public.
Even in the blurry moments of the earliest pandemic days, city manager David McCuen remembers talking and planning with Bratcher who was focused on staying prepared.
“I’ve done everything in my power to keep him from retiring,” McCuen said with a laugh.
Bratcher thanked his wife Miriam Bratcher and her medical background for fueling his motivation to work through the pandemic.
He pointed to the back of the room at city council Monday night where members of the fire department lined the wall in support. Those faces are what made it worthwhile to work for the department every day, he said.
Bratcher has watched a lot of things change over the years, from better technology to a bustling downtown, and he knew it was time for someone else to be at the beginning of a decade of future growth.
Downtown is bigger and better than ever, so whoever the next chief is will need to be prepared for the business that comes with a growing city, Bratcher said.
He’s excited to spend more time camping and fishing with his wife while still prioritizing volunteering and teaching.
The City has launched an internal and external search to fill the position, which supervises a $4 million fire budget.
Bratcher said he doesn’t think fire fighting is for everyone, but he sees volunteer fire fighting as a vital way to introduce people to the career.
Sarah Sheridan is the community reporter in Anderson. She’d appreciate your help telling important stories; reach her at [email protected] or on twitter @saralinasher.