City of W-S Has Been Retiring Fire Chief's Largest Classroom
One of Winston-Salem's decorated employees leaves the force after 32 years.
With wildfires out west and house fires down south, good leadership in the local fire departments is vital.On a smaller scale, parts of the Triad have also dealt with difficult blazes. Antony Farmer joined the Winston-Salem Fire Department in 1983. More than two decades later, he was named Service Fire Chief in 2008. Chief Farmer says he traveled the non-traditional path into this profession. “I came from an education background, you know, teaching and that kind of thing,” he says. “I got into the city business of public safety and just have aspired to advance.”Chief Farmer leans his tall, broad frame against a park bench outside of the Public Safety Center on Cherry Street. Dressed in a crispy white shirt and dark slacks, he recalls quickly rising through the ranks to earn the top post of Service Fire Chief. He says some people had doubts because he was younger than most expected him to be. “People always were saying, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ or ‘Can you do what you’re supposed to be able to do?’ But the Lord has allowed me to get through it, so it’s worked,” he says.The Winston-Salem Fire Department has grown from 17 stations to 19 stations and has kept its average response time below 4 minutes -- all under the leadership of Chief Farmer. But for him, it’s all about putting out the fires and educating the public on fire prevention. He says, “When you have a fire, it’s still about the safest way to take water or an extinguishing agent, getting to the seed of the fire, putting it out, and trying to bring it back to normal. So, even though technology has changed, you are still looking at resolving an issue when you respond.”This December, Chief Farmer will retire. He says he’ll miss working with the other city departments and getting to know Winston-Salem’s residents. But now he is looking forward to spending time with his children and grandchildren.