Columbus Fire Chief Martin Andrews, first full-time African American chief, retires after years of service
COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – After 35 years with Columbus Fire and Rescue, the last eight of those as Chief, Monday was the final day on the job for Columbus Fire Chief Martin Andrews.
“35 years, I always wanted to be a firefighter,” he says. “One of my main goals was to be the chief. I only wanted to be the chief in Columbus, Mississippi.”
Chief Andrews accomplished all that and more during his years of service to the people of Columbus.
After joining CFR in 1987, he became the city’s first full-time African-American fire chief when he was appointed in 2014.
“That means the world to me,” Chief Andrews says. “It just shows that, in fire service…no matter who you are, it is all about what you can do to make your community better.”
Assistant Fire Chief Duane Hughes has served with Chief Andrews since joining the department in 1995.
“He’s the same then as he is now,” Assistant Chief Hughes says. “He always had a servant mentality.”
During his tenure, Chief Andrews helped the department acquire five fire trucks at no cost to the city.
“Being able to get grants to assist the firefighters, we have truly been blessed with that,” he says.
He also took the City of Columbus from a class four fire rating to a class three fire rating.
“Which (takes) a tremendous effort,” says Assistant Chief Hughes. “Very few cities in the state have achieved that.”
And he made it a priority to maintain CFR’s status as an accredited fire department with the Center for Public Safety and Excellence.
“That means a lot,” Chief Andrews says. “It carries a lot of weight, but not only that, it makes our firefighters safer in doing what they do each and every day.”
The chief also oversaw the construction of a new fire station and steered the department through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s still hard to think that he won’t be here tomorrow,” says Mayor Keith Gaskin. “But I know that he’s prepared this department very well and we’ve been very fortunate to have him.”
Chief Andrews says he has been blown away by the outpouring of gratitude he has received from the people of Columbus.
“It just humbles me that we could come together even through a pandemic and downturns in finances, we were still able to provide the services that we have,” he says.
Assistant Chief Hughes is taking over as the interim fire chief.
Chief Andrews says that some of the issues the fire department faces going forward involve pay, staffing and budgeting.