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      Valdosta Fire Dept celebrates chief's retirement

      Valdosta celebrated the career of Fire Chief J.D. Rice as he retires after 21 years with the Valdosta Fire Department.

      "I'm in shock really...this is the final chapter here. It's sinking in now," Chief Rice said.

      It's the final chapter of a career that has lasted 35 years. His colleague, Shift Captain Ronald Skrine, has worked with Chief Rice for 14 years and says he's taught him a lot.

      "He taught me to be down to earth, to be myself, to always excel, and to get education whenever we can," Ronald Skrine said.

      Under the leadership of Rice, the fire department became the first in Georgia to have 100 percent of firefighters hazmat certified. He also hired Valdosta's first female firefighters.

      "I'm going to miss the excitement of going to help somebody. I'm really going to miss that," Rice said.

      Chief Rice's retirement was scheduled to begin December 31 but the city manager asked him to stay until a replacement is found. Rice says that should be 30 to 45 days.

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