Saturday, August 23, 2014
A member of the Class of ’84, the very last graduating class of Winyah High School, Lt. Lindy McRae, 48, has spent 20 years in the fire service.
“I never had any interest in fire service,” he laughs, “I was interested in other things.”
However, a friendship with “Mr. Bob” who volunteered with the city fire department as its safety officer, was the catalyst that caused McRae to give fire fighting a shot.
“I was working changing oil and ties at Cox’s Quick Lube (down on Fraser) and he [Mr. Bob] kept on me to volunteer with the fire department. He was so persistent I said I would give it a try. I ran my first call and I was hooked.”
So McRae began his career in ’94 as a volunteer with the county then went full time with the city in ’96 but continued volunteering for the county. In 2003 he moved to the beach and went to work for Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire. In 2004 he went back to work for the county and moved back to Georgetown. In ’06 he was promoted to lieutenant.
He has specialized training as a Hazmat tech and as an EMT. He is certified in Search and Rescue, extrication and has many leadership and officer classes under his belt.
His very first fire call after committing to firefighting as a career and going full time, he says, was not only his worst but remains vivid.
“It was the night before my first 24-hour shift, around 11 p.m. on Winyah Street…a three story house. There were three kids trapped on the third floor. Coming across the bridge you could see the flames…the smoke was so bad you couldn’t get up the stairs…Travis Douglas was the first to get to the children…he got an 8-year-old out but [the child died].” Firefighters couldn’t get to the other two.
He pauses, then… “we found their bodies under a bed…the 12-year-old holding the 2-year-old.”
He says it was so upsetting the critical incident team was called in to help firefighters deal with the tragedy.
“You think, ‘Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life?’ But if we can save just one….That’s why you do it.”
His best, he smiles, was a call for a dispatcher’s son who went into cardiac arrest as an infant.
“I was off-duty when the call went out and just happened to be in the neighborhood. I was the first one there and she just handed me the baby and I started CPR. The rescue team arrived minutes after me.”
“That child is still alive today and every time she [the dispatcher] sees me she says ‘thank you so much.’”
McRae thinks he has probably already met his professional goal “training new people and seeing them become officers.”
“I originally thought I wanted to be chief but no more.” He says after working a 24/48 shift for 20 years, he knows a 9 to 5 shift is not for him.
Divorced, McRae is father to three – Danielle, 29; Tony, 25; Riley, 12 – and grandfather to two: KK, 6 and Kinsley, 4.
He is also “dad” to an American bulldog named Fat Boy who is 3 years old.
His favorite pastime is riding his Harley Electra Glide.
“It’s my release, my getaway.”
He says he may start hunting again in a few years. “I used to stay in the woods.”
He also used to bass fish “but it got so expensive I had to give it up.”
He enjoys NASCAR and “some college football” and is a USC fan.
“I cook but it’s not one of my favorite things.”
He had hoped his son Tony would follow in his footsteps. “He rode with me a lot when he was growing up, he and the other member’s kids would all sit in a vehicle together [at a fire scene] and we called them our mascots.”
His son, however, “never got into it…he’s a banker.”
Tony, he says, just got married and he wants to see him have a baby. “No rush! When he’s ready.”
Now, McRae says he is looking forward to being able to retire and watch his kids and grandkids grow up.