By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
VISIONS '24 Community Spirit: City of Covington Fire Department
Possessing a 'servant's heart'
You have to be willing to put yourself on the line for it. That’s what we do day in and day out.
Joe Doss

For a century-plus, the city of Covington’s fire department has been a fixture in the local community. Across that time, a lot of things have changed for the Covington Fire Department and there have been many triumphs and challenges.

Throughout everything, one thing has remained the same — Service.  

Fire chief Joe Doss emphasized what it takes for the people of the Covington Fire Department (CFD) to provide that service each day. 

“You have to have a servant’s heart,” Doss said. “You have to be willing to put yourself on the line for it. That’s what we do day in and day out.” 

No instance showcased that mentality more than on the Covington Square around 9:37 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2023. 

The CFD responded to a call on Hendricks Street where Shear Bliss’ building caught fire and spread to local businesses New Shoez, Shelvie Jean, The Dude Store and Barber Shop while affecting other stores with smoke and water damage. The fire was not fully extinguished until 11:20 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2023. 

CFD Visions 1
- photo by Jason Mussell | The Covington News

Safety was at the forefront of Doss’ mind upon arriving at the scene and seeing his fire firefighters in action.

“The goal for everybody is to go home. We hire people and we bring them here and we train them, but our goal is to get them home — get them paid, make sure they’re earning a living — but send them home,” Doss said. “If we can get them home safe and mitigate the problem and accomplish our goal, which is either fixing it back the way it was or stopping as best we can when we found it. That’s our goal. But our end goal always is send people home safe.”

In all of his 26 years of being a firefighter, Doss stressed that Aug. 25’s fire was the biggest fire he has ever witnessed. Doss has heard of a chemical fire in the early 1970’s that could be comparable.

At that time, Doss was in the interim fire chief role, a role he took a month prior to the big fire. Doss additionally held the roles of fire marshal and on-call investigator as well.

December 2023 was when Doss was officially promoted to fire chief. 

Wearing several hats and bearing many duties, Doss remains grateful for how his team banded together during such a situation on Aug. 25, 2023. 

“It’s not one person’s responsibility to be responsible for something that large,” Doss said. “Usually you end up with what’s called an incident commander — that’s your single point person who runs the whole scene. That one, because of where it was on the front side of the building on Monticello Street and the backside of the building, which was going to be on Hendricks Street — we ended up having two incident commanders. One running the back and one running the front. 

“But they worked so well together that it went without a problem.”

The Covington Fire Department offers more services besides just fire response. Doss said the blank answer is fire, EMS, hazardous material, technical rescue.

Doss labeled the fire service as a “jack of all trades.”

“You don’t really know what to do? You’re going to send the fire department,” Doss said. “Not that we can fix everything or we know everything about it, but we’ve got our hands in a lot of stuff.”

The CFD has two stations — Station 21 (Pace Street) and Station 22 (Alcovy Road). Per the city of Covington’s website, it is currently one of six accredited agencies in Georgia by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The department holds an ISO rating of 2 as well. 

It has a staff of 55 personnel — 48 suppression and seven administrators.  

One of the members is Mike Jones, a captain on A shift. He has been with the CFD 22 years of his 24-year total fire service career. 

Jones recognized the whole CFD as a “close knit” group. 

“Sometimes, it’s like being at Thanksgiving dinner,” Jones said. “You got all of these different personalities. But, if your Thanksgiving dinner was every third day and it lasted for 24 hours. It’s good, though. I enjoy it. The department’s really good to us.” 

CFD Visions 3

Not only does the CFD focus on fire response, but it opens its doors for community connection. 

Parents, scout troop leaders and teachers reach out periodically to set up trips for students and children, which Doss stressed the department welcomes anytime of the year. 

The CFD’s station tours are held in special regard, especially to James Anglin. 

Anglin, a basic firefighter (Fire 2), is from Covington and he started 1.5 years ago with the CFD  after graduating from Eastside High School. 

“That’s what I grew up doing. I came here when I was young,” Anglin said. “It’s cool for me to have that point of view as a kid coming here to now being able to teach kids about the fire service and what we do in our day-to-day. So, it’s satisfying to build them up like how they built me up and they teach things. It’s really cool to see and satisfying.” 

Outside of the station tours, the CFD is exploring more ways to further connect with the local community. 

CFD Visions 5
- photo by Jason Mussell | The Covington News

Doss told The News that the CFD does “smoke alarm blitz” where, if a person does not have any smoke alarms, they will install two. At times, Doss said they will go out to “aging communities” and talk about falls, trip hazards, the use of safety rails, etc. 

Susie Keck, a Covington city council member and mayor pro-tem recognized the significance of CFD’s dedication to going above the call of duty.

“CFD’s commitment to service means that they prioritize the well-being and safety of the residents they serve,” Keck said. “They are dedicated to ensuring that the city is prepared for emergencies and that residents have access to the resources and support they need in times of crisis.”

No matter if it is responding to one of the biggest fires in Covington’s history, hosting station tours or doing smoke alarm blitzes, the CFD is focused on serving its community. 

However, looking back on that night on the Square in August 2023, Doss remains appreciative for how the community supported them. 

“As far as that fire from that night, I would absolutely say thank you to all the surrounding areas who came to help us,” Doss said. “And the people who came in.  They just brought stuff. 

“That’s small town.”