On July 1, 2024, Chatham County established its first ever Fire Department.

At their June 28 meeting, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved the transition of fire services from Chatham Emergency Services (CES) to the new Chatham County Fire Department. The commission authorized 152 personnel positions for the Fire Department and approved the lease of 14 fire stations.

“For the past year, County staff has been working with CES to determine the best path forward in providing fire services to our Unincorporated residents. Both the CES Board of Directors and the Commission feel that path is for the County to establish a Fire Department. We will be transferring the CES Fire Department employees to the County and leasing their fire stations to ensure uninterrupted continuation of services,” said Chairman Chester A. Ellis. “Public Safety is one of the highest priorities of the Commission, and we share that priority with Chatham Emergency Services. We know this decision is in the best interest for our community.”

Chatham County Manager Michael Kaigler has appointed Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley to oversee the transition and implementation of the Chatham County Fire Department. Hadley has served Chatham County as the Chief of Police since the department transitioned from the joint Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department in December 2017.

Under Hadley’s leadership, the Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) has maintained a modern, community-oriented policing focus with a reputation for transparency and accountability in all operations. Previously, he served for over 9 years as the Public Safety Director in Kalamazoo, Michigan, managing the largest cross-trained public safety department in the country – which included police, fire, and EMS.  

“I am excited to assist the County Manager’s Office in the transition of the Chatham County Fire Department,” said Hadley. “Over the past six months, I have had the privilege of working with County staff and Fire Chief James Vickers in the development and transition of fire services to the County. I am confident that the development of the Chatham County Fire Department will provide the necessary professional fire services to the residents of Chatham County,” Hadley said.

Former CES Fire Chief James Vickers has been appointed as the Chatham County Fire Department Chief by County Manager Michael Kaigler.

“Under the leadership of Chatham County, we are excited to continue serving our community as your new Chatham County Fire Department. This transition presents us a valuable opportunity to enhance services through increased outreach and collaboration. Leveraging Chatham County’s strong community ties and extensive network, we will be well-positioned to provide support and protection for every resident. Together, we will provide the highest level of services possible for our cherished community,” said Vickers.

With over 30 years of dedicated service in Public Safety, Fire Chief James Vickers is a seasoned leader in emergency medical response, fire suppression, prevention and community risk reduction, training, emergency management, marine and industrial response, and special operations. His unwavering commitment to excellence and extensive experience in organizational management make him a respected figure in the field, driving positive change and ensuring the highest standards of service delivery.

Chief Vickers holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Emergency Services management and a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Organizational Management. He is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program and received his designation as a Chief Fire Officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence. He also maintains numerous state and international level certifications, is a Georgia Certified Emergency Manager and a licensed paramedic.