Columbia Richland (SC) Fire Department Loses Two Members to COVID-19 Within 48 Hours

Both members had been with the department since the late '90s.

The Columbia Richland (SC) Fire Department is dealing with the loss of two long-time members due to COVID-19, as Chaplain Billie Bright and Battalion Fire Chief Joseph Casey Desso recently succumbed to the virus.

Bright, who served as a chaplain for the department for more than a decade, lost his battle with COVID Sunday after fighting it for weeks in the hospital; Desso passed from the virus on Monday.

A funeral service for Bright will be held on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 at 1 p.m. at Second Nazareth Baptist Church, 2336 Elmwood Ave., Columbia, SC. Internment will take place following the funeral at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens, 7100 Garners Ferry Rd., Columbia, SC. Details on Desso’s funeral services will be announced at a later date.

“It is with heavy hearts that our department announces the passing of our beloved Chaplain Billie Bright, who entered eternal rest early Sunday morning at the age of 46,” Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said in a statement. “Chaplain Bright started his career in the Columbia-Richland Fire Department in September 1998 and served valiantly as a Firefighter, Senior Firefighter, Fire Engineer, and Fire Captain with CRFD until his retirement in July of 2010.

“Upon his retirement, he realized that he still had a need to serve the department and the community. Shortly after his retirement, he was appointed as a Chaplain for the fire department. As our Chaplain he worked tirelessly to provide spiritual and emotional support to our firefighters and members of our community during their darkest hours.”

Desso served Columbia and Richland County for 24 years.

“From the beginning of his career in 1997, he rose through the ranks of CRFD and was promoted to the rank of battalion chief in 2017,” the department wrote on Facebook. “Throughout his career, Desso worked to shape firefighters and future leaders of CRFD. As a fire captain in 2016 he was recognized along with the members of his crew for their work rescuing a person that was entrapped in a burning structure.

“Chief Desso’s dedication and service to our community will never be forgotten … Our department continues to have resources in place for all members who may need support during this time of great loss. We thank the community for their outreach and sympathies to Chief Desso’s friends, family, colleagues and all who are in mourning.”

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