It was Assistant Chief Raymond Lloyd Day in Charleston on Thursday.
And to mark his 50th year in the fire service, he was named honorary fire chief.
His legacy continues as his son is now a captain in the department, WCSC reported.
Through the years, he was an engineer, captain and battalion chief.
Lloyd was teaching a class in 2007 when he heard a call at the Sofa Super Store. When he heard it was possibly a trash can fire, he went back to teaching. But, that didn’t last long as more units were being dispatched. He saw the dark column of smoke from 15 minutes away.
He went right to work to help other firefighters trying to free a man trapped in a room in the back of the building. He removed an air conditioner, but it wasn’t large enough for him to escape. So, they used tools to peel back metal which allowed him to get out.
In an interview with Firehouse after the fire, Lloyd said it bothered him that the smoke conditions had changed. When they arrived and made the hole, smoke poured out. As they worked, the smoke disappeared.
Nine of his brothers — Captains Billy Hutchinson, Mike Benke, and Louis Mulkey; Engineers Mark Kelsey and Brad Baity, Assistant Engineer Michael French; and Firefighters Earl Drayton, Melvin Champaign and Brandon Thompson– perished during the firefight.
He was given the option to retire shortly afterward, but that wasn’t his plan,
“I saw that there was a need for some command staff to stay…Keep some of the consistency in the department and I knew that’s what I was called to do.”
LLoyd watched the Charleston fire department progress from riding the back step and running into fires without SCBA.
In the aftermath of the tragic blaze, the department’s safety culture did a turnaround. Among the enhancements include better communications, training and calling for additional staffing faster.
The assistant chief went on to serve until 2018. But he wasn’t ready to move from the command seat to a rocking chair.
Not long after, he changed into a Folly Beach Fire Department uniform as assistant chief of fire operations where he is still sharing his knowledge.
He’s also keeping an eye on the women and men in the Charleston Fire Department.
“When I hear or see our fire engine, it puts a smile on my face, and I always look to see who’s on the rig,” Lloyd said. “…I looked to make sure, you know, they’re doing something safe…”