Clermont’s beloved fire chief and the city’s longest tenured volunteer-turned-employee is retiring.
After 49 years with the Clermont Fire Department, Fire Chief Carle Bishop will be honored at the start of the 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 city council meeting by City Manager Darren Gray and the council. The public is invited to attend the presentation at Council Chambers in Clermont City Hall, 685 W. Montrose St.
“Chief Bishop has been an invaluable leader for the Clermont Fire Department (CFD) during a half century of growth and change in the city,” Gray said. “He has transformed our fire department into one of the most respected departments in the state. He will be greatly missed, and we wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”
Bishop’s most notable accomplishments include growing an all-volunteer department into a career agency of about 90 employees, achieving international accreditation and lowering the ISO Public Protection Class rating three times, to Class 2.
“I’m proud to have been a part of it all,” Bishop said. “There’s been a lot of growth with personnel and within the community. I’m pleased with the Clermont Fire Department’s continued professionalism and all that we’ve accomplished together.”
The crown jewel of Bishop’s achievements was receiving international accreditation. The Commission on Fire Accreditation International awarded CFD the
honor in 2018, one of only 179 civilian agencies in the world to hold this designation and the first department in Lake County to do so. It took months of intense examination in 10 categories and numerous focus groups.
“It’s the gold standard for departments,” he said. “There’s nothing else you can get that will set you apart from other departments like that. I thought, if the city is going to be the Choice of Champions, then the fire department should be Champions.”
As for Clermont’s rare ISO Class 2 rating, it is only achieved by about 2% of all U.S. departments evaluated. CFD currently is being evaluated and Bishop hopes it will receive a Class 1. The nationally recognized standard is based on extensive criteria and determines insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.
“There are many things that I feel Clermont Fire Department has been out front of as a leader in our field,” Bishop said.
Among them, Clermont became one of the first fire departments in Lake County to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) medical services in 2001. It also is one of a few U.S. agencies Bishop knows of that require a physical fitness test for continued employment.
So much has changed since Bishop started 49 years ago, back when only one first-responder was sent to a call, fire trucks didn’t have roofs, apparatuses weren’t air conditioned, the ambulance took just one patient at a time and there were no computers, Global Positioning Systems or Automatic Vehicle Locators.
The Clermont Fire Department started with all volunteers in 1923, seven years after the city was incorporated. Bishop joined in 1970 and became chief in 1990, and the department became a paid career department in 1999. Bishop has served on the department for longer than it existed prior to his involvement.
“I hope I will be remembered as being fair and consistent in my dealings with others,” Bishop said. “Every day I tried to do what seemed right.”
Bishop has deep roots in Clermont. The fourth-generation Clermont resident’s great-grandfathers settled in Clermont in 1885 – the Bishops and the Coopers (whom Cooper Memorial Library is named for). His late father, Clarence Bishop, served as Clermont’s assistant fire chief in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as on the Clermont City Council; Bishop Field holds his namesake today. Carle Bishop was born in 1952 in the original South Lake Hospital downtown, where the First United Methodist Church of Clermont parking lot is today.
Bishop plans to devote his retirement years to his wife of 45 years, Wendy, whom he credits for making their home his “refuge” between shifts in a rewarding but taxing job.
“I hope I have created something that will continue to serve the city and the residents far into the future,” Bishop said. “Everybody has their own way of helping people. This was mine.”