A longtime member of the South Boston Fire Department, Capt. Ray Conner, was named deputy fire chief.
Conner was promoted from captain to deputy fire chief on June 1. In his new position, Conner remained responsible for training as well as the day-to-day operations of the department.
“I’m very honored to be the Deputy Fire Chief for the South Boston Fire Department,” Conner said.
The deputy fire chief position was most recently filled by Dwight Spangler, who retired Jan. 1.
Fire chief Steve Phillips said applicants for the position of deputy fire chief went through a process of doing script tests and answering oral interview questions, and Conner “came through.” “in this process. Phillips added that Conner’s promotion was “well deserved”.
“In this job, you have to love what you do,” Phillips said. “Conner always gives more than 100% every day he’s there.”
Working with Phillips as a right-hand man in the fire department is a natural fit for Conner. The fire chief and deputy fire chief have worked side by side for decades. Phillips was working as a paid member of the fire department when Conner joined the South Boston Volunteer Fire Company as a volunteer in 1990. While a member of the volunteer fire company, Conner served as a lieutenant and captain.
The assistant fire chief has steadily risen through the ranks of the fire department over the years. He began working for the South Boston Fire Department as a paid member in January 2002. Conner was promoted to lieutenant in 2006. Around this time, he became a training officer for paid staff and volunteers, a role he still holds today. In 2019, Conner was promoted to fire captain.
“Firefighting is something I have always wanted to do and it has been a great reward. I loved every minute,” Conner said.
Although he has taken on more responsibilities in the fire department over the years, Conner continues to love firefighting and helping others in the community in the process as much as he did when started fighting fires as a teenager.
“When someone has an emergency and you’re able to help them, it’s a reward to see that you’re able to accomplish what you’re there for,” Conner explained.
Conner walks into work in the morning not knowing what emergency he will be facing that day, but he knows he is equipped to handle any situation with the support of other service members. South Boston fire, which he considers family.
“I have a great group of people to work with,” Conner said. “It’s more of a family than anything.”
The South Boston native and longtime resident said he enjoys a positive working relationship not only with his fellow fire department members, but also with the community as a whole. He said the fire department had “a lot of support” from the community.
Being a firefighter is a fast-paced job that requires a high level of adaptability, but it’s a job well-suited for the assistant fire chief.
“It’s always a new challenge,” Conner said.
He continues to rise to the challenge every day and goes through continuous training to adapt to the constant changes in the world of firefighting. These changes include the type of equipment used to fight fires, the way homes are built, and even the furnishings inside homes, Conner explained. For example, houses today are made of plastics which release more toxic gases when burned and lighter wood which burns hotter than heavier wood.
Phillips added: “You prepare for the unknown because you never know what you’re going to face when you walk into a house.”
As a seasoned firefighter with years of training under his belt, Conner also enjoys his role in training the next generation of firefighters and preparing them for the challenges ahead. Conner recalls starting out “knowing nothing”, responding to his first fire at Willow Oaks Apartments. Today, Certified Fire Fighting Instructor III trains novice firefighters throughout Halifax County.
“When you train someone who starts out knowing nothing about firefighting and later sees that person do the job and do it well, you get a sense of accomplishment,” Conner recounted, adding: “You never know when you’re going to need them or they’re going to need you.
Teamwork with fellow firefighters from the South Boston Fire Department and other county fire departments has been a key to Conner’s success over the years and one that he will take with him into his new role as Deputy Fire Chief.