Retiring battalion chief honored for 37 years of service

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MANATEE COUNTY - Thursday morning, an honor guard lowered the flag flying over the Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue Station One as part of the retirement ceremony for Battalion Chief Leigh Hollins.

“I have been 36 years in Manatee County, 30 at this department right here,” said retired Battalion Chief Leigh Hollins.

Fellow firefighters, friends and family showed up to honor Hollins who served the public as a firefighter for 37 years. During the brief retirement ceremony, Hollins was presented the American flag that flew over his station by his father, Edwin who is a retired fire chief from New Jersey.

“I told him congratulations and many, many years of happy retirement,” said the Edwin Hollins, who started his career as a volunteer fireman in New Jersey.

Leigh Hollins told ABC 7 he has seen a lot of changes through the years. When he started firemen still responded to fires while standing on the tailboards of fire trucks.

“Holding on to a railing at the top of the hose bed that was up at [eye] level and sometimes not having all your gear on and trying to put your gear on. Your brother firefighter would be holding you while you get the rest of your gear on” recalled Hollins. Thankfully, he says he never fell off the back of a moving fire truck.

“If somebody was to fall off or something we had a little buzzer and you pushed one to stop and two to go.”

Even though he has retired, Hollins’ legacy will live on with the Cedar Hammock Fire Department. He was very instrumental in designing and building the Cedar Hammock Fire Training facility.”

“Leigh has been a big part of our department. He is kind of known as the training monster back in the day,” said Cedar Hammock Fire Chief Jeff Hoyle.

Hollins says now he is looking forward to the next chapter of his life but says he is not through training other firefighters.

“I enjoy traveling and teaching others mainly heavy vehicle extrication, truck extrication, school bus extrication and those type skills.”

And after 36 years as a fire fighter, Hollins says he is also looking forward to having some down time.