Beaufort News

Exchange Club of Beaufort honors volunteer as Firefighter of the Year

For Derrick Washington, it's all about making time for the things most important to you.

A father of two and a full-time employee of the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, Washington was recently recognized for the more than 14,000 hours he's volunteered with the Beaufort Fire Department.

"You've just got to make time," Washington said. "If it's something that you set your mind on doing, you make time to do it."

A volunteer with the city's fire service since 2000, Washington, 40, was named Firefighter of the Year last month by the Exchange Club of Beaufort. The club has honored a northern Beaufort County firefighter and a police officer every year for the past 22 years.

"True volunteers are a dying breed," said Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron. "In today's society, to have someone dedicate so much time to any cause and expect nothing in return -- people like that don't come along very often. He's always there and always willing and available to help. I can't say enough good things about Derrick."

The department has honored Washington three times with its Volunteer Firefighter of the Year award for his service, which Washington said started when he was called to turn off the water at the scene of a fire on Union Street.

The Exchange Club's award typically has gone to paid firefighters, but Washington's contribution to the Beaufort area couldn't go unrecognized, said Katie Grindle, club spokeswoman.

"The Exchange Club stands for service to the community, and Derrick was just a perfect candidate for us," Grindle said.

For a volunteer firefighter to win the award speaks highly of Washington as a firefighter, Negron said.

"Usually this award goes to full-time, paid personnel, so for Derrick to win this award as a volunteer firefighter speaks to Derrick's dedication to our department," Negron said. "He's one of us."