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.”
The London Fire Department (LFD) has been awarded two grants from the Kentucky State Fire Commission totaling approximately $11,000. The Department continues to actively seek grant opportunities to better serve the citizens of London and neighboring fire departments that they provide mutual aid to.
Although firefighters wear turnout gear for protection from intense heat up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, toxic chemicals can still penetrate through and remain on the gear following exposure. Many of the toxins are cancer-causing agents and gear must be frequently washed. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standard for retirement for turnout gear is 10 years. The London Fire Department was able to replace approximately four sets of gear with the $10,000 awarded. Full turnout gear includes coats, pants, helmets, boots, gloves, and hoods.
“We are very thankful for the Fire Commission and their grant opportunities,” Fire Chief Carl Hacker said, adding, “The City has always done what they can, but receiving grants like this helps us adequately outfit more members in safe and proper gear required to get the job done.”
A $1,000 grant was also awarded by the Kentucky Fire Commission for Public Education initiatives.
Currently, the Department provides fire education to Kindergarten through 12th grade. To further fire prevention initiatives, they’ve created a junior Firefighter Club that meets monthly at South Laurel High and is looking to expand into North Laurel High in the fall. The Laurel County Center for Innovation has also partnered with the fire department to allow firefighters to provide fire education to their student body.“Engaging our youth in fire education is pivotal to improving life safety as well as increasing interest in future volunteer service,” said LFD Public Information Officer Magen Zawko.
The LFD is a combination department made up of full-time staff, part-time staff, and volunteers. There are 42 firefighters within the Department. To apply to become a volunteer, visit londonkyfire.com/join or to inquire about becoming a junior firefighter, call (606) 864-2922.
For more information about the London Fire Department, visit londonkyfire.com or for questions about services the Department offers, call (606) 864-2922.
On Wednesday March 24, the London Police Department was proud to volunteer with the Backpack Program of Laurel County.
Officers and staff packed over 1,000 bags, two weeks worth of food, to be distributed to hungry children right here in our own county. Additionally, the LPD donated all of the proceeds from its “No Shave January” fundraiser to this charitable organization.
The Backpack Program of Laurel County currently serves over 1,000 children across all schools within the county, helping to feed the estimated 25-30% of children going hungry on weekends. Please consider donating your time and/or money to this organization that helps to locally support so many in need.
Visit www.laurelbackpackprogram.com to see how you can help!
Together, the City of London Fire Department and the American Red Cross can provide and install smoke detectors at zero cost to London residents. To schedule a visit from the Fire Department to have your free smoke detector installed, visit londonky.com/services/smokedetector-installs to fill out an application.
“It is the goal of the City of London Fire Department and American Red Cross to make sure that every home has a working smoke detector,” said London Fire Chief Carl Hacker.
Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms provide an early warning so you and your family can get outside quickly. Every home should have a smoke alarm on every level and be installed outside each separate sleeping area. Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month.
The London Fire Department will adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines while providing this free service. To learn more about the London Fire Department’s programs, visit londonkyfire.com or call (606) 864-2922.
On Saturday, February 27th, London Police partnered with Speedway Store No. 9337 on KY-192 for a “Pack-A-Cruiser” Food Drive. Throughout the three-hour food drive, 507 pounds of canned goods and non-perishable foods were collected. Approximately $115.00 was received in cash donations! Donations were transported by Ofc. Kenny Jones and were received by God’s Pantry Food Bank of Southeastern KY in London.
“These are Laurel County businesses and Laurel County residents, and they don’t want to be a part of Corbin.”
That’s the main factor cited by Judge-Executive David Westerfield Thursday, February 25th after the Laurel County Fiscal Court unanimously expressed its opposition to a proposed Senate bill that will allow Corbin to annex into Laurel County.
Under current state law, Corbin cannot annex into a third county, but a bill filed Wednesday by Senate President Robert Stivers will give Corbin the ability to annex the hotly-contested Exit 29 area of southern Laurel County.Stivers has tried on several occasions to advance this targeted legislation to help Corbin, but he has run into opposition from other city and counties who will be affected by the law’s provisions.
“Other city and counties across the state don’t want this either,” Westerfield said.
London Mayor Troy Rudder said the proposed bill affects other locations, not just London and Laurel County.
“We’ve already talked to some of them to let know it’s come up again,” he said. “It’s the same bill he’s tried to get passed in a number of sessions. It wasn’t unexpected, and neither was the timing. We’ve been waiting for him to do this.”
The Mayor said he’s been encouraging locations adversely affected by the bill to work through their legislators to get the bill defeated. At its regular meeting Thursday, the fiscal court expressed unanimous opposition to Stivers’ Senate Bill 274. Westerfield worked the phones all morning to let elected officials and state government leaders know Laurel County’s stance on the bill.
“The people I’ve talked to down there tell me they want to be a part of London and Laurel County, not Corbin,” he said. “We try to work with Corbin but we can’t go against the wishes of the people, and we can’t afford to give up the tax base that we count on.”
The Exit 29 area has a high traffic count because it intersects two major highways. But it is underdeveloped because restaurants and retail businesses want access to city services, such as the ability to sell alcohol. Corbin Utility Commission provides water and sewer to the area. But attempts by Corbin to annex property in Laurel County have been thwarted by the state law Stivers wants to change, as well as opposition from businesses and residents.
Economic prospects for the area improved dramatically at the end of December when the City of London approved a request by several property owners at Exit 29 to voluntarily annex their tracts of land. The annexation is in the final stages.
“It’s been passed and published, and we’re just waiting for final approval from the secretary of state,” Rudder said.
With London stepping up to facilitate development, owners of a 30-acre tract next to I-75 began clearing the property and are negotiating with several restaurants and retail establishments, officials said.
“The area has been stagnant for decades,” said Paula Thompson with the London-Laurel Co. Economic Development Authority. “The owners down there have requested to be annexed so they can develop their property. You’ve got restaurants, truck stops and box stores at that exit who have an interest in being a part of the city. They support the annexation by London.”So does the Laurel County judge executive.
“We have a great relationship with the City of London,” Westerfield said. “I’m in favor of their annexation so we can continue this relationship with London, and do what’s best for the people in that area.”
The City of Corbin filed suit against London’s annexation effort, but did not seek an injunction. The case is pending in Laurel Circuit Court.Laurel County officials were unsure Thursday of how the lawsuit, and Stivers’ latest attempt to help Corbin, will affect the recent momentum for Exit 29.
“The area is very blighted, but it can be attractive to other businesses, retail, and industrial,” Thompson said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for economic development. We’ve finally been able to make progress, and I hate to see it thrown back into uncertainty again.”
Since February 14th, over 9,500 homes in Laurel County were without electricity, hazardous ice covered area roadways, trees fell trapping households, downed power lines littered streets, healthcare workers needed assistance to arrive at work, at-risk citizens needed warm, and the London – Laurel Rescue Squad was at the heart of it all taking the call to help others.
Since Sunday afternoon the Rescue Squad assisted 23 healthcare workers needing a lift to work to keep the ER open and functional, they assisted EMS with seven runs with their off-road vehicle to load up patients, helped with four patient transports, five fuel runs for household generators, assisted with clearing fallen trees, worked 18 car wrecks – many on I-75, assisted the Laurel County Emergency Operations Center with transporting 12 to the warming center at West London Baptist, and have re-fueled all tools and vehicles to do it all again.
Throughout the week Chief John Allen and Assistant Chief Darren Wyatt work full-time at the Rescue Squad, while 50 members assist when able between their full-time jobs and family. The Rescue Squad stated they are thankful to work alongside our great area fire departments during bad weather. The local fire departments, city utility workers, street and road departments are wonderful resources. It takes a village, and the Rescue Squad’s hope is for citizens to be aware of the weather-related dangers ahead and plan accordingly.
Emergency personnel are asking citizens to please refrain from calling 911 about roadway conditions. The London-Laurel Co. Dispatch Center is ready to take emergency calls day and night and for non-emergency needs, call (606) 878-7000.11,054People Reached1,355EngagementsBoost Post
London, Ky. (February 1, 2021) – London-Laurel County Tourism, along with Forcht Broadcasting’s WFTG The Wolf, and Kentucky Country Music have teamed up to produce an intimate acoustic concert experience, Heritage Music Series. Multiple Kentucky based singer-songwriters will take to the stage the first three Saturdays in March at Heritage Hills Theater. All shows will begin at 7:00 pm with limited socially distanced seating.
On March 5, Rye Davis will team up with Branden Martin for the first show of the series. Both have been named one of Kentucky Country Music’s Music Acts to Watch list due to their increasing popularity among music fans. Their blend of stone-cold honkytonk songs are perfect to listen to for fans of Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Cody Jinks, among others. Tickets for this show will be $15.
Then on March 12, Wolfpen Branch, formally known as Hancock and Shouse, will be bringing their 5-piece band of music all-stars to the stage. The band consists of Arthur Hancock, Chris Shouse, Roddy Puckett, Kati Penn, and Aaron Bibelhauser. Bluegrass and Appalachian music fans will enjoy their unique style up on stage. Tickets for this show will be $20.
Finally, on March 19, Tiffany Williams and Eric Bolander will conclude the series as part of the celebration of releasing their new albums collectively. Letcher County native, Tiffany Williams, recently recorded “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” alongside Laurel County native, Darrell Scott, who penned the tune. Eric Bolander provides a soulful laidback Americana sound to his performances. Tickets for this show will be $15.
Tickets for the Heritage Music Series are now on sale at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/lltc-29700364349. For those that purchase tickets for all three events by March 1, they will receive a complimentary signed poster from all the artists. There are limited tickets per show to follow CDC guidelines. Masks will be required by everyone to wear at all times, as well as social distance protocols.
For more information, be sure to check out the London-Laurel County Tourism website at https://visitlondonky.com.
The 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration was held Monday evening in downtown London, although in a scaled-down version due to the pandemic. The celebration featured a drive-thru pancake breakfast, a march down Main Street and a virtual reading of King’s “I have a dream” speech at the London Community Center. The virtual gathering allowed people from across the state to honor Dr. King through a keynote speech and a live virtual reading of his most-famous speech.