When Ray Carter started as a firefighter, a 50-foot roll of hose weighed about 50 or 60 pounds. Now that same roll only weighs about 12 pounds.
Technology has advanced. Equipment has advanced. He’s watched the county grow.
After 43 years, the Boynton Beach fire chief is saying goodbye to a career he has loved, a job he says he never once dreaded. His final day is today.
Deputy Chief Greg Hoggatt will serve as interim until a permanent chief is chosen.
“I’ve enjoyed my work thoroughly. I loved what I did for a living and I will absolutely miss that. The people that I work with and the people I’ve encountered over the years. I’ve encountered thousands of people over 43 years. I got to interact with them, I got to do something positive for them hopefully and that’s very rewarding,” he said.
Carter, 65, started in 1972 as a firefighter in West Palm Beach. He retired from the department as chief in 2004 and moved to Boynton’s department. He served as deputy chief and in April 2011 became chief of a department with 134 certified firefighters.
Lori LaVerriere, Boynton’s city manager, said Carter served the city with professionalism, dignity and innovation. She said it was a “pleasure” to work with him.
“The Chief has nourished his Fire Rescue Team into a family that not only supports the residents and businesses of our community, but also our nonprofit sector,” she said in a statement. “One of my fondest memories of his dedication to assist those in need occurred every March when he shaved his head to raise money to conquer childhood cancers.”
Returning seven positions is something Carter lists as one of his accomplishments in Boynton. That was possible through a $1 million grant, and after the grant ran out the department continued to pay their salaries.
Some of the changes Carter has seen include a digital electronic patient care reporting system that increases accuracy and efficiency. Also, lights in the truck indicate if seat belts aren’t being worn, and uniforms are safer, he said.
Carter says a growth phase is happening again in the city, which he expects to increase by 10,000 more residents in about 10 years. That means another station or additional units at the existing five stations will be needed.
The residents and the fire employees’ interactions with them is what Carter is most proud of. He said the accidents involving a lot of vehicles or people, and the large commercial structure fires tend to stick out in his and other firefighters’ minds. But the stuff in between— no matter how minor — matters, too.
“We affect peoples’ lives every day with what we do. People call, they pick up 911 and they call because they’re having a bad day. Something usually bad has happened and we try to make that better. I like to put it as we affect people’s lives every day hopefully in a positive way. As we do that certainly we save some lives,” he said.
Carter said he doesn’t plan to work through retirement, but will still be seen around the area. He’ll spend his time traveling, and working on his new home in Palm Beach Gardens. And he’ll also have a retirement party that he expects to be heavily attended.
“Everybody’s invited. There’s a lot of people out there that know me and I want to make sure they all understand that they’re welcome to come. I’d love to see them,” he said.
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