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under the sun
THURSDAY. FEBRUARY 28. 1991
WACCAMAW HAS COUNTY'S FIRST FEMALE CHIEF
Warren Says Fire
BY DOUG RUTTER
Waccamaw Fire Chief Glcnda WarTen has more
than 125 toy fire trucks in her home, but she
doesn't play around when it comes to fight
ing real fires.
Like a soldier preparing for battle, she says
adrenaline starts flowing through her body whenever a
call comes in, and she immediately starts planning the
A member of the local department for five years,
Mrs. Warren says fire fighting is in her blood. Like a
gambler who can't stop betting, she just loves fighting
"It's the challenge of outdoing the fire, knowing
that you can protect yourself and others," she said. "It's
a good feeling to go in, knock the fire down and come
out and have something to show for it."
Mrs. Warren, chief of the Waccamaw Volunteer Fire
Department since last June, is apparently the first and
only female fire chief in Brunswick County.
"It's scary," she said of her status. "But it's a good
"There is some heavy equipment to move," she
said. "When you get 125 pounds of pressure going
through a hose, it's not easy to handle. It's very strenu
The Warren home at Ash is easy to spot for anyone
who knows they're fire fighters. A miniature fire truck
hangs from the mailbox, and a toy fire hydrant stands in
the front yard.
Inside, house decorations include a variety of toy
fire trucks that have been pickcd up over the years at
flea markets and stores. A fireman climbs a ladder on
one of the battery-operated trucks.
"We're really into it," Mrs. Warren admits. "There \
aren't many things that arc fire -related that we miss."
The chief said she's always glad to see a new face
in the department, but realizes they might not slick
around long when they find cut what being a volunteer
firefighter is all about.
"It's not just picking up a hose and running with it,"
Mrs. Warren said. "When they find out there's some
dirty digging work involved, that cools the excitement."
teeiing to know people put that much
trust in vou that vou can handle the
She was elected to the chief's
post last year after her husband,
Gregg Warren, stepped down. He had
served two stints as chief for a total
of five or six years.
Mrs. Warren said Waccamaw fire
fighters and those from other depart
ments have supported her as chief,
but there has been some good-natured
kidding around. "I've been picked on
a lot. But I can handle that too."
Mrs. Warren said she never
thought she vould be fire chief when
a friend talked her into joining the dc
"It's scary , but
it's a good
feeling to know
people put that
much trust in you
that you can do
? Glenda Warren
me chief trains about 500 hours a
year, an average of 10 hours a week,
with Waccamaw and other area fire
departments. About a year ago. she
said she was training five nights a
week and every other Saturday.
Some volunteers give it up after
the excitement wears off. People have
been driven away from the depart
ment because of the many hours of
training and relatively few hours
fighting actual fires.
Crrgg Warren said the firefight
er's job is a lot like a police officer's
job in that respect. 'They train years
and years and never pull their gun,"
he said. "When thev need to. if the
partmcnt in the fall of 1985. She had two children at
home at the time, but decided to give it a try.
At first she was training with seven other women
who were available to fight fires during the day.
"I took to it. I enjoyed helping in the community,"
Mrs. Warren said. "It was exciting to start with, but the
excitement sort of wears off after a while. You either
like it or you don't"
The chief admits that being a volunteer fire fighter
has its down side. "The worst thing is getting to a struc
ture fire and knowing that you have no chance of saving
Mrs. Warren said one of the reasons she agreed to
take over as chief was because her husband agreed to be
assistant chief. She said there's a lot of responsibility in
being chief. "All ot those iives are in your hands."
As fire chief, Mrs. Warren usually drives a truck
and operates equipment when she goes out on a call.
The chief doesn't help fight the fire unless it's absolute
"I'm kind of left out of the actual fire fighting and I
miss that," she admits. "Overseeing the situation isn't
any fun. The actual fun is fighting the fires."
Although she misses battling flames, Mrs. Warren
said being chief isn't as physically demanding as being
a firefighter. The chief usually is needed for her knowl
edge rather than her strength when the department re
sponds to a fire.
knowledge is there and they react properly, then they
The Warrens said it upsets them when people com
plain about how long it takes for the Tire department or
rcscuc squad to respond to a call.
They said area residents need to understand that
firefighters and rcscuc workers are volunteers. When an
emergency is called in, these people have to leave home
or work and go to the department before responding to
'The community as a whole doesn't care until it has
a direct effect on them," Mrs. Warren said. "If those
people who sit back and do a lot of the talking would
just come, at least they would see what it's all about."
Even with the complaints, Mrs. Warren said she
won't quit. "Yea feel a responsibility to go and help,"
she said. "You just go sometimes when you don't feel
like you can go."
Mrs. Warren said the biggest challenge she has
faced since becoming chief was responding to a house
fire in the Longwood area by herself. She met a
Calabash fire fighter and Brunswick County Emergency
Management Coordinator Cecil Logan at the scene.
"It's a bad feeling to out to the building and have
nobody to go with you," the chief said. "That just
proves the point of how much people are needed."
There are 21 people on the Waccamaw VFD roster,
with 14 or 15 active fire fighters. Mrs. Warren said die
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STAFf fHOTO 8Y DOUG ?UTTf?
WACCAMAW FIRE CHIEF GUlNDA WARREN shows some of the toy fire trucks that decorate her
home. She's the first known female fire chief in the county.
department needs at least 21 people on the roster to
keep slate certification. 'That's why we beg," she said.
The Warrens said their family has been accused of
trying to run the fire department. But they said they
would welcome anyone who is interested and is willing
to put in the hours they do.
"We don't accept these jobs bccausc we want to do
it all," Warren said. "There's nobody else to do the job."
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