Large-scale sculpture by Hillsborough County artist Harrison Covington honors firefighters
Many may not give it much thought, as the County’s fire stations all have fairly uniform cutting-edge features. The latest fire engines, customized fire protection gear, and modern living quarters for 24-hour staff are common elements. However, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Station 28 in Sun City Center has something special that most other stations do not: a larger-than-life, bronze sculpture.
The Firefighter was created by Harrison Covington and installed outside Station 28 in fall 2005. Made entirely of bronze, it depicts an 8-foot-tall male firefighter walking with a young boy. The sculpture consists of approximately 1,700 pounds of metal and stands atop a red brick platform, roughly 4 feet high.
Upon first look at the firefighter’s old-fashioned gear, viewers are taken back to a bygone era, one heavy with heroisms and nostalgia. The man’s high-collar coat flaps open to show suspenders and what looks like a handkerchief around his neck. He wears knee-high boots and vintage bunker pants with large side pockets. The firefighter nonchalantly carries his helmet in his right hand. His other hand is on the boy’s back, protectively, as if he was ushering the child out of harm’s way. The young boy, sheltered beneath a flap of the firefighter’s coat, gazes at his presumed rescuer in awe. It looks as though both are hurriedly moving forward, in step with one another. A viewer could easily imagine that the firefighter was escorting the child to safety.
This story is part of Hillsborough County’s 50-for-50 Series, a historic review of some of the memorable events, dates, and people in the history of Hillsborough Fire Rescue, which was born on Aug. 27, 1973. Want to know more? Read additional stories that show the growth, bravery, and specialized operations of Hillsborough County’s largest department.
The Firefighter is part of the public art collection commissioned by Hillsborough County. Its immense size makes it visible from State Road 674.
Harrison Covington – accomplished artist, WWII pilot, and Hillsborough native
It’s no surprise that The Firefighter projects humility and courage. The artist himself, Harrison Covington, had a personal background in overcoming immense obstacles amidst demanding and dangerous situations.
In 1943, when he was only 19 years old, Covington was drafted to serve in World War II. After intense U.S. Army Air Corps flight training, he joined the corps of fighter pilots assigned to fly P-47 Thunderbolts, heavy-duty fighter-bomber planes. Covington flew the ground-attack aircraft over Europe and throughout the Pacific. On at least one occasion, he returned to base with a hole blown through the fuselage of the P-47 he was piloting.
After the war, Covington returned home to Plant City and attended the University of Florida. While there, he studied art and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Eventually he began teaching and, in 1961, became dean of University of South Florida’s College of Fine Arts. By 1981, Covington had retired to primarily paint and sculpt in his studio on Lake Carroll, in North Tampa. He passed away in 2021, less than two weeks after celebrating his 97th birthday.
Other local works of art by Covington can be found throughout Hillsborough County. Perhaps his most famous is The Barnstormer, another 8-foot-tall sculpture made of silicon bronze alloy. It depicts a post-WWI stunt pilot and stands amongst flight passengers coming and going from Tampa International Airport. Other local pieces by Covington can be found at the Shriners International Headquarters in Tampa and the University of South Florida library and campus.
The Firefighter is located at Fire Rescue Station 28, 4551 Sun City Center Blvd., Sun City Center, FL 33573.