At 81-years-old, Wilson Rawlings was honored for his 66 years of serving London as a firefighter, as a founder of the London-Laurel Rescue Squad, and one of the oldest active/longest-serving firefighters in the state of Kentucky. The London Fire Department, London-Laurel Rescue Squad, and community members gathered for a private surprise party on his 81st birthday, Tuesday, April 6th.
Rawlings followed in his father’s footsteps, A.W. “Gus” Rawlings, who served as Chief from 1945 to August 1st, 1950. Wilson began volunteering for the London Fire Department in 1955 at 15-years-old. Wilson served as Chief from June 12th, 1989 to January 10th, 1994. He was designated as London’s Deputy Fire Chief 2004. He established the London-Laurel Rescue Squad in 1969 and Chief John Allen designated Wilson as Chief Emeritus since 2019.
“When I helped organize the Rescue Squad 52 years ago, I had no idea it would be what it is today. It’s one of the best in the state. To see where the Fire Department is now from when I was 15-years-old – it’s unbelievable,” Wilson said, adding, “I wish I could go back in time and experience the “golden years” again.”
During the event that honored Wilson, members stood up to share their most memorable stories of Wilson. All reflected on his honorable trait to always go above and beyond for others.
“Wilson has been the epitome of a first responder. He has repeatedly put others before himself. Like many first responders in the Laurel County area, Wilson has been a dedicated public servant for many years. His knowledge and friendship have been an inspiration to countless men and women who have followed in his footsteps and learned under his leadership,” said Marc Rudder, Director of State Fire Rescue Training at the Kentucky Fire Commission.
Chief Allen remarked on how overwhelming Wilson’s impact has been in his 66 years of service.
“I believe the Rescue Squad would not be where it is today without Wilson. His vision for the Squad is still going strong with the hard work and solid values Wilson started out with,” Chief Allen said.
London Fire Chief Carl Hacker stated even today, Wilson is pouring his wisdom and experience into the fire department.
“We are honored to know Wilson, work with him, and have such an asset in our community – he’s helped make the London Fire Department what it is today,” Chief Hacker said.
City of London Mayor Troy Rudder added, “Wilson’s leadership in the London Fire Department has taken it to a higher standard of professionalism. The City of London thanks him for his many years of service.”