Camaraderie, brotherhood, a tradition of service, an adrenaline rush; these are some of the reasons the volunteers of the Pembroke Fire Department give of their time and themselves to answer the call.
It’s certainly not for the money. And even though it’s also not for fame or recognition, every now and then a little of both are deserved.
Every year, Pembroke firefighters are chosen for recognition within their respective units by their peers and the chief for service in the previous year. For 2016, three firefighters were honored within the PFD: Firefighter Aaron Stevens, Chief’s Choice; Lt. Paul Rigo, Officer of the Year, and Lt. Mike Dodd, Firefighter of the Year. In addition, firefighters Ricky Holland and Mike Dodd were both promoted to lieutenant.
Rigo, the "old man" of the group as he is nicknamed by fellow firefighters, has been at it for approximately 30 years. He has remained undeterred despite the harrowing experience of being hit by buckshot in the throat from a shotgun shell that discharged in the flames of a house fire. He was 18 and at one of his first fire fights when that happened.
Rigo was one of the first responders on scene at the horrific accident on I-16 that killed five young nursing students in 2015. He says it was the worst experience of his firefighting career.
"That will always be with me" he said with obvious emotion.
The lieutenant is a safety coordinator for International Paper and despite the dangers and the hardships of firefighting, he keeps volunteering with the PFD partly because he loves the camaraderie.
"Great bunch of guys I work with, that’s all I can say," he said. "I enjoy working with them. I trust them with my life."
Much newer to firefighting, Stevens hopes make to make it his full time career. He is currently in the Army, stationed at Fort Stewart. He spends his time off base learning as much as he can while volunteering with the PFD. He said he is grateful to other firefighters who have mentored him.
Stevens is originally from Ohio and said his family values public service. He said firefighting gives him the opportunity to make a difference.
"It really is just a rush altogether and being able to help people out," he said. "We get called on to do things that normally people don’t do. Just the fact that I can help somebody, I can be that difference."
Holland said both his mother and grandfather were firefighters.
He also is in the Army, stationed at Fort Stewart, but will soon move to Alaska. Holland has been with the PFD for about a year and has been a firefighter for 11 years.
Dodd has a wife and two children at home and is a truck driver. He said he has no idea why his fellow firefighters honored him, he suspects it is because he shows up and does what he’s supposed to do.
He said he always wanted to be a firefighter and, when he started, he loved it.
"Anyone of these guys, you can call day or night," Dodd said. "Everybody is there for each other. And when it’s go time, we all stick together."