Mile Turner said it was his boyhood dream to be a fireman.
As a child, he remembered traveling to the mountains, seeing the old Lucia – Riverbend Fire Department on old N.C. 16.
As an adult, he and his wife, Sandra, moved to Gaston County in 1987. He put his application in at Lucia -Riverbend.
His dream came true.
â€œBeing volunteer, youâ€™re pretty much on instantly,â€ said Turner. â€œAs long as you donâ€™t do anything stupid, theyâ€™ll keep you on.â€
Turner recently realized another dream, being named the East Lincoln Fire Departmentâ€™s (ELFD) firefighter of the year.
Turner remembered when his family moved from Gaston County to Denver in 1997.
His firefighter buddies back at Lucia tried to get him to stay.
â€œI had done everything there except for chief or assistant chief, â€œ said Turner, adding he stayed at Lucia for four years before coming on with ELFD.
â€œI felt like I could be a bigger benefit at East Lincoln if I moved,â€ said Turner. â€œEven though I left, I still have a good relationship with Lucia.â€
Turner said the pace at East Lincoln Fire is faster than Lucia, with a higher volume of traffic and calls.
â€œIt was a challenge to get used to,â€ said Turner, adding he additionally teaches a Sunday school class at Lucia Baptist Church and coaches soccer with his two boys â€“ Colby, 8, and Drew, 16.
Turner is no stranger to challenges: Colby is a type-one diabetic who is on an insulin pump. Drew, meantime, is a rising junior at East Lincoln High School.
Turnerâ€™s full-time job is serving as branch manager Cummins-Atlantic in Spartanburg, S.C., which is a company that manufactures diesel engines.
Also, Turner is one of two firefighters in charge of the departmentâ€™s junior firefighter program, along with firefighter Eric Doolittle.
Turner laughed when asked if he has any time for himself.
â€œI get more joy out of coaching kids, teaching Sunday school or working for the fire department,â€ said Turner. â€œI donâ€™t even consider the â€˜me sideâ€™ of helping others.â€
Turner said he was caught offguard with receiving the firefighter of the year award.
â€œI thought Tim Tench was going to get firefighter of the year because he was in the final four,â€ said Turner. â€œI told my son I was confident he was going to win the award.â€
The night of the awards dinner, the Tenchs and Turners sat together. The children of both couples are good friends and the older children are junior firefighters.
â€œWhen they called my name, I was extremely shocked,â€ said Turner. â€œI never in a million years dreamt I would be firefighter of the year.â€
As a firefighter, Turner said heâ€™s learned about the value of life.
â€œWhen we go to help somebody, they call us when they have a need,â€ said Turner. â€œTo go help somebody with their need is extremely important. The people with that need are important to somebody. To be able to do what I do is important.â€
Turner said that the public should know firefighters â€“ and all emergency personnel â€“ are extremely dedicated to serve the community.
â€œThereâ€™s no hidden agenda here,â€ said Turner. â€œMost people arenâ€™t getting paid to be at calls. Weâ€™re sacrificing our time and families to help the community. Thatâ€™s very important to remember.â€
According to chief Tim Tench, Turnerâ€™s colleagues bestowed upon him the honor through voting for him at the November firefighterâ€™s meeting.
â€œMike tries to be involved, in his church and the fire station,â€ said Tench. â€œIf heâ€™s not in one place, heâ€™s in the other.â€
Turner said Tenchâ€™s sentiment was â€œpretty accurate,â€ sometimes spending four or five days at the church per week.
Tench said Turner is dependable, consistently responding to calls and volunteering a number of hours every week at the station.
â€œWhenever we need somebody, if Mikeâ€™s available then heâ€™ll help out,â€ said Tench. â€œHeâ€™s always willing to help.â€
Over the last five years with East Lincoln, Turner said heâ€™s made some great friends.
The learning process has also continued.
â€œThereâ€™s some great people at East Lincoln who have taught me some things,â€ said Turner. â€œWhen you think you know it all, that gets you in trouble. You need to stay in that â€˜ready-to-learnâ€™ mode at all times.â€
by Jon Mayhew