March 31 was the last day on shift for Lt. Blair Darst of Barrow County Emergency Services.
After 38 years of jumping up for middle-of-the-night alarms and spending countless holidays at work, Darst has retired.
Darst began his career of service as a member of the ski patrol in Ohio while still in high school and then joined the Hubert, N.C. Volunteer Fire Department while stationed at Camp Lejeune during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps. He later became a Nationally Registered Paramedic while attending the University of Cincinnati.
In 1990, Darst joined the ranks of Gwinnett Fire Rescue, and was a part of their explosive growth for the next 13 years.
In 2003, Darst came to Barrow County Emergency Services (BCES) to form the Fire Investigations Unit. Over the years, he earned increasing numbers of certifications including Certified Fire Investigator, International Association of Arson Investigators (CFI, IAAI), eventually becoming Chief Fire Investigator for BCES.
Additionally, he holds Georgia POST certification as a Police Officer and Arson Investigator. Darst was the first Vehicle Fire Investigator to be certified in the state of Georgia by IAAI, and a Bob Gore Scholarship recipient for the Georgia Fire Investigators Association.
Throughout his career, Darst shared his vast knowledge of fire science and fire behavior by teaching classes around the state. Those classes included Fire Investigations, Interview Tactics, Incendiary Fire Causes, and numerous other topics. He also regularly assisted in teaching Fire Behavior to BCES recruit classes.
Darst is responsible for training three other fire investigators in Barrow to the level of Certified Fire Investigator, which is about a five-year process. This passing on of knowledge ensures that the county will continue to have excellent fire investigation capabilities after his departure.
“For nearly four decades, Lt. Darst has devoted his life to public service," BCES chief Alan Shuman said. "The amount of experience he acquired, and the knowledge he passed on to others here a BCES and across the Southeast will have a lasting effect on the fire service for years to come. As a company officer, he always put his crew’s safety and well-being first.
"The BCES family will miss him. We wish him the best as he begins this new chapter in his life.”
Even though his public service career has ended, Darst still plans to continue working as a fire investigator in the private sector, and as a consultant. He also looks forward to spending a lot more time with his family playing golf, flying and hanging out on Lake Lanier on his boat, appropriately named “Knott on Duty."