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East Lincoln Fire Department names Turner firefighter of year

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.
“Being volunteer, you’re pretty much on instantly,” said Turner. “As long as you don’t do anything stupid, they’ll keep you on.”
Turner recently realized another dream, being named the East Lincoln Fire Department’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.
“I had done everything there except for chief or assistant chief, “ said Turner, adding he stayed at Lucia for four years before coming on with ELFD.
“I felt like I could be a bigger benefit at East Lincoln if I moved,” said Turner. “Even though I left, I still have a good relationship with Lucia.”
Turner said the pace at East Lincoln Fire is faster than Lucia, with a higher volume of traffic and calls.
“It was a challenge to get used to,” said Turner, adding he additionally teaches a Sunday school class at Lucia Baptist Church and coaches soccer with his two boys – 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.
Turner’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 department’s junior firefighter program, along with firefighter Eric Doolittle.
Turner laughed when asked if he has any time for himself.
“I get more joy out of coaching kids, teaching Sunday school or working for the fire department,” said Turner. “I don’t even consider the ‘me side’ of helping others.”
Turner said he was caught offguard with receiving the firefighter of the year award.
“I thought Tim Tench was going to get firefighter of the year because he was in the final four,” said Turner. “I told my son I was confident he was going to win the award.”
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.
“When they called my name, I was extremely shocked,” said Turner. “I never in a million years dreamt I would be firefighter of the year.”
As a firefighter, Turner said he’s learned about the value of life.
“When we go to help somebody, they call us when they have a need,” said Turner. “To 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.”
Turner said that the public should know firefighters – and all emergency personnel – are extremely dedicated to serve the community.
“There’s no hidden agenda here,” said Turner. “Most people aren’t getting paid to be at calls. We’re sacrificing our time and families to help the community. That’s very important to remember.”
According to chief Tim Tench, Turner’s colleagues bestowed upon him the honor through voting for him at the November firefighter’s meeting.
“Mike tries to be involved, in his church and the fire station,” said Tench. “If he’s not in one place, he’s in the other.”
Turner said Tench’s sentiment was “pretty accurate,” 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.
“Whenever we need somebody, if Mike’s available then he’ll help out,” said Tench. “He’s always willing to help.”
Over the last five years with East Lincoln, Turner said he’s made some great friends.
The learning process has also continued.
“There’s some great people at East Lincoln who have taught me some things,” said Turner. “When you think you know it all, that gets you in trouble. You need to stay in that ‘ready-to-learn’ mode at all times.”
by Jon Mayhew

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