Meet Chief Jerome Yarbrough! Chief Yarbrough is a lifelong Gainesville resident and has been the City of Gainesville fire chief since 2013. He is married to Deborah and the couple has five children between them: Chauvis is 35, Jeremy is 29, Tevin is 27, Gracie 19 and Bailey 17.
After graduating from Gainesville High School, Chief Yarbrough served in the Army. After leaving the Army he stayed on with the Reserves worked for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office for two and a half years. He then began as a fireman with the Gainesville Fire Department in July 1984.
“There is a big change from then to today. We ran about 400 calls a year, we did a whole lot of waiting on something to happen. Today, we have 13,000 calls a year. Over the years, I’ve transitioned through all the ranks. Lieutenant, Captain, Fire Marshall and Chief in 2013, for a total of 35 years.
“We have been here since 1876, Gainesville Fire Department was one of the first paid departments in the area. We have been a paid department (Gainesville Hook & Ladder) since the turn of the century in 1900; at the turn of the century the name changed to the Gainesville Fire Department.”
Yarbrough oversaw the department as their new headquarters were built in 2013. The headquarters also includes a firehouse, which is not standard at all fire headquarters. He said that the facility is unique and that many firemen and chiefs from across the country visit to tour the facility. The fire department now has 103 personnel, four stations around the City of Gainesville, covers 34 square miles and operates 10 trucks per shift.
One of the biggest influences in Chief Yarbrough’s life has the Boys & Girls Club. He has continued to work with the Boys & Girls Club over the years and they have awarded him many awards for his service through the organization.
Watch an amazing video about Chief Yarbrough from the Boys & Girls Club: From the Club to Fire Chief
We want to thank Chief Yarbrough for spending time with us recently and telling us more about his life and love of Hall County.
Question: What lead you to your career?
Answer: “I was at Gainesville High and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do…the principal Curtis Segars had the recruiter from the Army come to the school and were having people take the ASVAB. I wanted to sneak out of there, so Mr. Segars said to me ‘get in there and take that test.’ I took the test in 10 minutes and the recruiter said there was no way I took it that fast and Mr. Segars made me go retake it. I scored pretty well. The recruiter was giving me all these options and working at the fire station was one of the options.
“We visited the fire station with Boys & Girls Club and I thought it was cool. I always had in my mind I wanted to do something like that.
“I also stayed in the Army during my career. In 1980, I discharged from the active duty service and went directly into the Army Reserves, I was a medic with the 3297th medical battalion at Fort McPherson. I did that until 2002, I retired in the Reserves…in 1990 Desert Storm/Desert Shield hit and I got deployed, so I had to leave here for about 14 months. Left for Fort Devens in Aug. 1990 and came back in 1992 and ran a medical clinic there.”
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Hall County?
A: “It’s going to have to be Longstreet, everyone loves Longstreet. My wife and I like Mexican food and we visit Senor Fiesta. Hands down it’s got to be Longstreet.”
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “I always said and these aren’t my words, they came from my upbringing, nothing out there is free, you have to word hard for everything you get. The time you put into something you get three or four times back in return over time. Nothing happens over night. Work hard and treat people right.”
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
A: “I collect Invicta watches and a matter of fact I’m going to an Invicta watch collectors cruise. I have about 200. I have always liked watches and when I got to a point that I could afford them, I started buying them. All men collect something, cars, guns, and I collect watches and go to the shows.”
Q: Where would you love to travel to right now?
A: “My wife wants to travel to Europe, Paris but I feel like I don’t know a lot everything about American history. There is a lot here that I want to see, too. I like going to Orlando, they gave us a ticket to go to Disney when I got out of the military and it was for a day at Magic Kingdom but since I’ve had my kids I bet I’ve been to Disney World 25 times.”
Q: What was the first movie you saw in the theater?
A: “The first movie I saw in the theater was probably at the theater that’s no longer there, it was the Roxy Theater. The first movie was probably ‘Raisin in the Sun’ with Sidney Poitier and I went with my uncle. He was going to the movie with one of his girlfriends and I begged to go with him.”
Q: What three words mean HOME to you?
A: “Quiet, relaxing, safe.”