09/18/06 — Fire chief will retire from post this winter

View Archive

Fire chief will retire from post this winter

By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 18, 2006 1:50 PM

When Bobby Greenfield was a little boy, he dreamed about becoming a firefighter so he could save lives and help people.

But that wasn't all.

The Goldsboro native decided he not only wanted to work at the fire department. He wanted to run it.

So, he set his sights on becoming the first black fire chief for the city of Goldsboro.

Greenfield is living proof that dreams come true.

"I was 181/2 years old when I first came to the department," Greenfield said. "This is the only public job I've ever had. One thing I wanted to do is get somewhere that I enjoyed doing, where I could start early and retire early."

And now that his dream has been fulfilled, Greenfield will step down Dec. 29 and walk away from a career that was his first and only true love.

City Manager Joe Huffman said he is proud and saddened by the news. Greenfield, 50, was a very "competent and capable leader," he said. "When I go to bed at night, I don't worry about the fire department."

Huffman said Greenfield had a successful career with nearly 32 years of service, and he's glad that the fire chief is leaving on a high note.

"I like to see people go out with a lot of accomplishments under their belts," he said. "But, I'm very sad because it's going to be hard to fill his shoes."

Greenfield said he, too, has mixed emotions about his retirement. Working at the Goldsboro Fire Department, the only fully paid fire department in Wayne County, wasn't just a job. It was his life's work.

Greenfield oversaw an 83-man department with 39 firefighters and 21 officers. What he will miss the most are the firefighters he called family and a department he called home.

Greenfield joined the department in May 1975 through a federal program that gave money to cities to hire firefighters on a temporary basis in hopes that one day they would be hired full-time.

Greenfield received a permanent position with the fire department three days before the program ended. He said he was thrilled. He loved everything about the fire department.

He still remembers the exhilaration and the adrenaline rush he got when he went on his first fire call.

"My first fire call was a true experience," the married father of three said. "It was at a moving and storage warehouse. It was really exciting to me because I knew I found the career I was looking for in life."

He smiled when he recalled riding in the fire pumper truck with an open cab, exposed to all of the elements. If it rained, he got wet, and he never complained. It was all part of the job.

Greenfield, then a firefighter, began to move up quickly through the ranks. He served as fire engineer, fire prevention education specialist/fire inspector, assistant chief of training and assistant chief of operations. He became fire chief several months after Willard Herring retired in 1999.

Greenfield has good memories and bad ones, too. He said he will never forget his first fatal fire call.

"An elderly lady died in a house fire on North Williams Street," he said. "It was something very touching. But it's all part of the job. You don't dwell on it. You have to move on."

He frowned as he recounted another call when two children died in a house fire on Marigold Street.

"It sticks with you," he said. "You never get over it, but you move on."

Although some memories of his firefighter says were painful, it was easy for Greenfield to continue on his career path. He knew every day he went to work, he helped someone, and that's what kept him going.

"I've tried to be good to the citizens of Goldsboro and the city of Goldsboro because they have been good to me," he said.

Although he is a little sad at leaving, Greenfield said he is also filled with pride. He knows he is leaving the fire department with a well-equipped, well-trained and very professional staff.

"I have made a lot of progress over the seven years since I have been chief," he said. "Whoever takes over, I can truly say I have a fire department that they will be proud of."