Chapel Hill Fire Chief celebrates 30 years of service and looks to retire


Chapel Hill, North Carolina (WNCN) — For the past 30 years, Fire Chief Venceline Harris has served the community of Chapel Hill.

“It’s a little surreal,” Harris said at a reception at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Friday afternoon. Several people, town leaders and firefighters from multiple agencies attended to wish the fire chief well as he prepares to retire.

“The people who work at Chapel Hill are not just employees, they are family.

In 1994, at the age of 20, he started his career in the fire department, laughs Harris. “I applied to a newspaper because I thought there was a chance, and here I am.” When I was in college, I wanted to be an engineer! ”

Over the past few years, Harris said he worked hard and worked his way up through the ranks, playing many roles in the fire department. These roles included being a captain, battalion commander, and emergency management coordinator, in addition to being the town’s fire chief.

“He’s one of the first police officers I’ve ever met,” said Deputy Fire Chief Ray Enoch of the Raleigh Fire Department, who joined dozens of others to say goodbye to Mr. Harris.

Enoch, who started his career with the Chapel Hill Fire Brigade, added: “He is a friend, a role model and a mentor who can contribute to my success today.”

Interim Mayor Christopher Blue also said he admired Harris’ hard work and dedication to organization and the people he worked with.

Blue, who served as the town’s fire chief for several years, said he worked closely with Harris. “I’ve seen him working late into the night and seeing fires show up in the middle of the night,” he said. Blue added, “He’s been someone who’s seen this community through a lot of change, and he’s always had a positive outlook.”

When Harris took over as Chapel Hill fire chief three years ago, he said the fire department faced one of the most difficult times during the pandemic. “There were financial and safety challenges along the way, but with the help of my team, we were able to overcome them in a very successful manner,” said Harris. .

He also said the past few years have brought remarkable growth and development to the region, which has created additional challenges. He said high-rise buildings and dense areas changed the ministry’s tactics.

Chapel Hill City Councilman Jessica Anderson credited some of Harris’s achievements. She said the fire chief has always had a good relationship with city council members. We work with all our departments to ensure that service to society and safety are top priorities in all our activities. ”

As she prepares to retire, Harris wants the fire department to thrive and employees to continue to be a priority. “The town must continue to do great work, and it is already doing so by supporting the people who work for it,” he said. Because of those people,” he said.

Town officials recently announced that Jay Mebane, who has served as Burlington’s fire chief, will assume the post after July 1, Harris’ last day.cent.

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