AIKEN -- Aiken Police Chief Carrol Busbee capped 35 years of service as a fireman and public safety officer with his induction this weekend into the South Carolina State Firemen's Association's Hall of Fame.
Gov. David Beasley and Tommy McDowell, the association's president, announced the honor in Myrtle Beach on Saturday at the 93rd annual conference of the state firemen's group.
Chief Busbee is past president of the association, which has more than 15,000 members statewide. His service as Aiken's fire chief is longer than any other chief in South Carolina.
The police chief was caught off guard by the honor. He had another surprise when in the middle of his acceptance speech he looked up to see all six of his children -- Jim, Steve, Robert, Carolann, Jamey and Casey -- in the room.
His wife Rosemary coordinated the surprise entrance, the chief said.
"It was a great honor to me," Chief Busbee said. "For me it capped a long career in the service and made me humble to receive something like this."
He said he credits four elements in his life for helping him earn this recognition: "My faith, my family, the people I work with and who work with me, and those people I've worked for.
"I am very grateful. It couldn't have happened if it had not been for tremendous support given me by the members of the department and citizens of this community," he said.
Chief Busbee, 65, was born and educated in Aiken.
He began his firefighting career as a volunteer in 1957, and later served professionally in the 1960s as fire equipment operator and fire and building inspector for Aiken.
He was appointed Aiken's fire chief in 1964. When the city merged its fire and law enforcement departments in 1970, he became director of the new Aiken Department of Public Safety.
The Aiken public safety department was the first fire department in the state and the first public safety agency in the nation to reach Class 2 ISO status, a feat accomplished in 1982. The insurance rankings are on a scale of 1 through 10 with 1 the highest rank.
Chief Busbee was a founding member of the state firemen's association and currently serves on its advisory board and planning and goal board.
In the 1960s, Chief Busbee formed a committee with other fire chiefs to establish the South Carolina Fire Academy. Under his administration, Aiken became the first city to adopt a rigid sprinkler ordinance. Over the years, the chief has promoted fire prevention and education programs.
Data from the public safety department shows that while there were 333 fires in Aiken in 1970, the volume has dramatically decreased. So far in 1998, there have been fewer than 50 fires reported.