- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - A man who always wanted to be a firefighter has designed something for the Winston-Salem agency that is now seen all the time.

Ethan Richards knew from a young age what his career would be. Growing up in Belews Creek, in the northeastern part of Forsyth County, a nearby fire station helped his family on a regular basis.

“The city went through a drought and (parts of) Belews Creek didn’t have water for two years,” he said.

The drought began in about 2002, when he was 10. Richards’ family would go to his grandparents’ house nearby to cook several nights a week. The fire station still had a working well and would let his family take showers there, he said.

“I felt like they adopted me and my brother,” Richards, 25, said. “We’d go every Thursday night to meetings. A rural water source was a big deal.”

That connection to the fire department stayed with him.

Richards began volunteering as a junior firefighter with the Belews Creek Fire Department when he was 12.

“It’s the only place I wanted to work,” he said.

By the time he graduated high school Richards was certified as a firefighter. Four years ago, he was hired with the Winston-Salem Fire Department, a job he still loves.

“I still look forward to coming to work,” he said. “It’s the camaraderie, because you live with them for a third of your life, and it’s exciting.”

Richards also has a flair for art - he’s even been employed in a tattoo parlor for a time, and often does caricatures on the station’s marker board in his down time. While at the Winston-Salem Fire Department, he was tinkering with the city’s logo around October 2015.

“I was just doodling, I didn’t think we should change it,” he said.

Fire Chief Trey Mayo thought differently, however.

He saw Richards’ design and thought it was a good start for a scramble - a logo, of sorts, that incorporates the initials for the agency, Winston-Salem Fire Department.

The city’s logo couldn’t be used for the fire department, though, so Richards had to start from scratch, linking the four letters - WSFD - together. Mayo suggested using a tobacco leaf in the design somewhere, as well, to represent Winston-Salem’s history, Richards said.

He said he worked on the design when not responding to calls in the evenings, submitting it for the chief’s review a few times, before it was approved about three months later as the department’s scramble. It’s now being used on everything official, from the fire department’s letterhead to new fire engines, Richards said.

“It’s ended up being on literally everything,” Richards said. “It’s crazy to want to work here for so long, and (my design) ended up on any piece of paper, uniforms, trucks, everything.”

He remembers the first time he saw his design in public, several months later, in the fall of 2016.

“It was on a new engine 6,” Richards recalls. “I sent my mom a picture. I didn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Since designing the scramble for the fire department, Richards has also been recruited to design the graphic layout on the rest of the light-duty vehicles, which includes the safety vehicles and what the battalion chiefs drive. It includes the scramble and stripes.

“I had to think how to lay it out,” Richards said.

Like the scramble, he discussed the design with Mayo.

“We went back and forth until we came to a decision,” Richards said.

His work may still appear on a few other things for the fire department. He’s been asked to design the flag and a few other things for the agency. Richards, however, has declined for the moment. He has a few things going on in his personal life and works a second job, as well, and said he’s working to balance work and personal life.

However, he - and his family - are excited to see his work around the city.

“It’s nice to see my design,” Richards said. “And my parents will send me pictures when they see the truck out with the design on it.”


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com

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