As the first fire chief of Warner Robins, Ernest Williard Wood built the fire department from the ground up. Literally.
After he was hired in June 1959 as the first fire chief for the city of Warner Robins, Wood hired the first 10 firefighters for the city. Together, the 11 men helped build the fire station on Myrtle Street.
In honor of his achievements, Wood will be inducted into the Warner Robins Hall of Fame on Oct. 20.
Born and raised in Gainesville, Wood joined the Navy in 1944 and served in the South Pacific until 1946. Before coming to Warner Robins, he had served as the assistant fire chief at Boca Raton Army Airfield.
During the 25 years Wood led the Warner Robins Fire Department, it grew from 10 employees to 140. Wood started the Fire Safety Education Program for Houston County schools that is still in use today, as well as the Blood Pressure Program. Also, because of the achievements of the Warner Robins Fire Department, the citys fire insurance classification was lowered from class 10 to class 3.
In 1969, Warner Robins combined the police and fire departments, and Wood was named deputy director until February 1973, when the departments were again separated. In May 1983, Wood was named public safety director. Wood retired in 1984.
Current Fire Chief Robert Singletary worked for Wood in the beginning of his career and said Woods impact on Warner Robins and the fire department is still felt.
Chief Wood created a legacy within the Warner Robins Fire Department that will never end. He created the foundation for a department that sets high standards for its personnel and expected them to meet them. Many of the standards that Chief Wood began back in 1959 are still part of our department today. There are only a couple of us still working in the fire department that worked under his tenure, but his legacy will live on forever, Singletary said.
Chief Wood was also a visionary when it came to the fire service. He thought outside the box and did things like first aid and fire prevention before they became the norm within the fire service. It was this kind of thinking that always kept the Warner Robins Fire Department in the forefront of fire protection.
I had the opportunity to travel with Chief Wood a couple of months ago when we attended a retired fire chiefs funeral together. The trip itself was about three hours long each way, but I was able to learn more about the history of our department during those six hours than I had the last 30 years. It was truly an enjoyable trip, and one I will always cherish.
Chief Wood is very deserving of this honor and is one reason Warner Robins is the great city it is today.
Wood is a member of the Georgia State Firemens Association and served that organization as secretary and treasurer and also as a trustee for the pension fund. He belongs to the International Fire Chiefs Association and the Georgia State Fire Chiefs Association. He is a past commander of the VFW.
Although Wood has had numerous accomplishments in his own right, friends and family say the thing Wood is most proud of is that three Warner Robins firefighters became fire chiefs in other cities.
Ernest and Margaret Wood have been married for 66 years and reside in Bonaire. They have four children, Terry, Tommy, Nancy and Ernie, 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.