Friday, May 16, 2014
For 24 years, Senior Firefighter Micheal Armstrong has served his hometown of Georgetown.
As a child, he was fascinated with the television show Emergency!
“I saw how these guys saved everyone out of a fire…that kinda gave me my start.”
He was 12 years old.
A graduate of Choppee High School, Armstrong has certifications in so many specialized area, he can’t remember them all: confined spaces, HazMat, extrication, first responder, fire boat, child safety seat, and the list goes on. He is also the mechanic for the department, he said.
“I troubleshoot the fire trucks.”
He is an engineer which means he drives the truck and takes his lieutenant’s place if his lieutenant is off.
If first on scene, his role is to size up the situation, noting dangers, hazards and communicate the situation with dispatch.
He works 24/48, B Shift but doesn’t slow down in his off time.
When he isn’t working he is working with kids.
“I went to the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club at Beck [Recreation Center],” he said. “I try to give kids a different outlook on life.”
Armstrong said it is because of the mistakes he made in his life that he wants to help kids avoid those same mistakes.
Sadly, he said, the club was disbanded in November. Nevertheless, his work with young people earned him his chief’s nomination to the South Strand Optimist Club in recognition of his work with young people. He was also awarded Career Firefighter of the Year in 2012.
His worst experience, he said, was a fire about 10 years ago on Winyah Street where four children perished.
“It almost made me want to quit.”
But, he said, “as a fire department we are a big family and we band together and talk in through [with counselors].”
Tragedy has been part of Armstrong’s life. His own house burned to the ground a few years ago and he was first on the scene of a fatal motor vehicle crash that killed his father.
“I was the first person to identify the body,” he said quietly. “I had to watch them put my father in a body bag, on a stretcher and in the ambulance.”
His best experiences, he said with a smile, are “when I can go to the public and show them that we’re here for them…kids look up to us.”
He loves being the hand and mouth behind the puppets when the department is educating the community, he said.
“When nobody can help, I can actually help.”
He remembers a “save” the department had a while back. “There was a fire one night on Prince a few years ago…the man was in the house asleep and we dragged him out…we got a plaque.”
His professional goal, he said, is to be the best that he can be. He has no aspirations to climb the ladder to the chief’s position.
“I like where I’m at right now…I get first crack at [training] the rookies.”
Divorced, Armstrong is the father of two – Micheal Jr., 28, who is in the Air Force and Mandisa, 26, who lives in Charlotte.
He enjoys riding his motorcycle, roller skating at the Fun House in Surfside, and working with his hands. Building things and mechanics keep him busy.
“I tried cooking,” he laughs, “too tough.”
He not into watching sports but enjoys playing basketball and baseball. He fishes a bit but there’s “not enough time for that.”
“I spend most of my time helping kids…showing them there’s always another way out…giving them choices…to teach them respect for themselves and others.”
And the kids he has helped keep in touch, he said.
“Some of them,” he laughs, “are just glad I am out of their hair.”
His life goal is to live life to the fullest and to help people.
“I am trying my best to do that.”