Being a firefighter was always a dream for Ricky HarrisBy JAMIE PATTERSON,
When Ricky Harris was a young boy, he was amazed by the fire trucks that sometimes roared through his neighborhood. The sounds and sights surrounding the familiar icon intrigued him.
And he was hooked.
“I am truly living my dream,” Harris said, inside the Yazoo City Fire Department. “I have always wanted to be a fireman, nothing ever else. And that dream has become my life.”
Harris joined the Yazoo City Fire Department in 2005. Since then, he has climbed the career ladder at the department, currently serving as the assistant fire chief.
It is a job Harris takes seriously, and it’s a job he has been destined for since birth.
“As a kid, I was amazed by the fire trucks in town,” Harris said. “And for Christmas, I either got a train set or a fire truck. That became my dream to be a fireman.”
Harris, now 50 years old, was born and raised in Yazoo City. The son of Edna Harris and the middle of three children, the Harris family grew up in the Ridge Road community.
“My mother was a single mother,” Harris said. “But she worked and took care of all of us. She worked day and night.”
The community was tight-knit, Harris said. Many families looked out for each other, and usually by all means necessary.
“Everybody in the neighborhood had permission to chastise all us kids,” Harris said. “If you got caught doing something, everybody got onto you. And then when you got home, you got it worse.”
The Harris family attended Beulah Land Church under the direction of Rev. C.L. Clark.
And Harris graduated from Yazoo City High School in 1987. His children would later graduate from the same school.
The idea of joining the Yazoo City Fire Department first came about under the leadership of Chief B.J. Wright. A position became available, and Harris wanted to take his first shot of achieving his childhood dream.
“I tried and passed everything, but the position was given to someone else,” he said. “But, by the grace of God, a position came back around.”
Harris started first working with the city street department in 1998. In 2005, his dream came true when he joined his hometown fire department.
“I hit every mark,” Harris said. “I’ve been a driver, a captain, a battalion chief, a training officer. In 2015, I was promoted to assistant fire chief.”
Harris has seen and done it all within the fire department, seeing the best of both worlds. He is able to work with the public, but he still manages the administrative side behind a desk.
“I just loving being out in the public,” Harris said. “I want to give back and help others. And working with this department, we are making the Yazoo City Fire Department one of the best in the state.”
Are there problems? Harris smiles at that question.
“No,” he said. “I love everybody.”
Through the years, Harris said the call that he has responded to that sticks out in his memory is the night the Federal Compress erupted into flames. A cause of that fire has yet to be determined.
“I was the first on the scene,” he said. “I was speechless. I had never seen anything like that. I called all the volunteers to come help because it was the biggest fire I had ever seen in my life. At first, I thought the call was a prank until I pulled up to it. It has always stuck with me.”
Harris admits he has had plenty of other job opportunities offered to him over the years. But Yazoo City is home, and he isn’t going anywhere.
“I am loyal to Yazoo,” he said. “It’s home here. My wife Janet and I also promised that as long as our parents were here, we will be here.”
Yazoo is also the place Harris raised his family, and the memories here are too good to leave.
“One of my sons is in Chicago,” Harris said. “And my other son is at home with us because he has cerebral palsy. He is 32 years old, but he has the mind of a child. He is my motivation to get up every day and do what I do. Seeing his face when I leave for work and seeing his smiling face when I return home makes my day.”
Aside from his career, Harris is also active in a variety of civic and volunteer duties. He is a member of the 21 Club, the Ebenezer Lodge 206 and the Yazoo County Brotherhood Laymen Association. He also currently serves on the Deacon Board at St. Peter M.B. Church.
His journey has been a dream for him. And he knows who to thank for it.
“God comes first in my life,” he said. “And he has given me a blessed life.”