AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Those who fight fires in the CSRA remember the life and legacy of one of their own. Search crews found the body of Augusta Fire Department Lt. Ralph Jenkins Saturday in Clarks Hill Lake, near Appling, Georgia, after a boating incident. While DNR investigates what happened, a few of his friends shared reflections.
The men we spoke with said they have only kind words to say about Lt. Jenkins. And he wasn’t just a coworker to them, but a family member who was part of a brotherhood.
“He leaves behind some empty boots that’s going to be tough to fill,” Retired Lt. Joey Smith told us.
And the compliments flowed from Smith as he recalled the early days he worked with Lt. Jenkins.
He also told us, “I could tell from day one that Ralph was going to be aggressive, was going to be a good worker and going to be a trend setter.”
That was back in 1981 when Smith said he was a driver for Jenkins with Richmond County, before consolidation. And he learned quickly that his new coworker liked his red engines shiny.
“That was one thing that he instilled in his drivers until the day he left us was I’m going to ride in a showboat truck,” Smith recalled.
Lt. Jenkins spent his more recent years at Station #10, on Alexander Drive, near Washington Road. There, the flag has been lowered and a black banner is draped across the sign.
Lt. Daniel Rigdon said he worked with him at Station #2 for 10 years where he made him into the fireman that he is today.
“[I learned how] To treat people, to interact with people. Ralph was fantastic with anybody,” he remembered adding that Lt. Jenkins did not care about race or how much money someone had.
Smith added a story he will always remember that he can now tell since he’s retired.
“Ralph was always very competitive with everything he did. We would race to calls to see who could get there first.”
DNR is still investigating what happened. But for the friends and firefighters Lt. Jenkins leaves behind, the brotherhood remains strong.
“The ones that he trained, moved themselves up and they trained their guys just like he trained them. That’s tradition,” Rigdon said. “That’s the tradition of the fire service.”
We are still awaiting details about the funeral. But we do know the fire department is working with the family.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps