ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – From a volunteer firefighter on Sullivan’s Island to 35 years with the Isle of Palms Fire Department, longtime Fire Chief Ann Graham is set to take her final call in just a few weeks.
More than a quarter-century with the Isle of Palms Fire Department, Chief Graham has worked through hurricane Hugo, three public safety buildings, and estimates between ten and twelve badges over the years. It all started as a dream 47 years ago.
From walking to the fire station bus stop to seeing her neighbor die in a fire, Chief Graham knew her destiny was to help others.
“And that really bothered me to no end and I swore at the moment that I was going to put myself in a position where nobody could ever tell me that I couldn’t help again,” says Chief Graham.
Sullivan’s Island Fire Chief Anthony Stith gave Chief Graham her start as a volunteer fire fighter.
“She’s done a great job, I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with,” says Chief Stith.
She has been involved in a lot over the years, but some scenes left a more lasting mark:
“The morning of Hugo, I remember the sky like it was yesterday,” says Chief Graham. “They say ‘red in the morning, sailor take warning,’ well it was red.”
One of her proudest moments was noticing a problem in the county’s radio system, and pushing for a $20 million upgrade, which likely saved the lives of countless firefighters.
“Had I kept my mouth shut, I just don’t know,” says Chief Graham. “I really truly believe someone was going to die.”
There is an old saying that says a good leader always knows when the time is right. For Chief Graham she says the timing couldn’t feel better.
“I stepped up even though I wasn’t ready but I believe I made the best of it and I just feel that it’s time to step out,” says Chief Graham.
For now the Chief is taking a moment to reflect on a lifetime of memories. And when the last call comes on December 31st, she hopes whoever comes next keeps a watchful eye over the department.
“I want to thank them for their support, tell them to stay safe,” says Chief Graham. “I’m right around the corner, a phone call away.”
Chief Graham plans to spend more time with family, planning camping trips to the mountains and enjoying life.
But one thing is certain, the Isle of Palms Fire Department will always hold a special place in her heart.
“This is like home,” says Chief Graham. “It’s like home.”