MANNING - The Manning Fire Department had a record number of calls in 2019 and recognized the leaders in the department at its annual awards banquet on Feb. 10.
"Tonight is a night we thank our firefighters and their significant others for their …
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"Tonight is a night we thank our firefighters and their significant others for their dedication and service to the Manning Fire Department and the citizens of Manning," Manning Fire Chief Mitch McElveen said in his welcome. "Firefighting involves the whole family. Sunday dinners are hampered, birthdays, Christmas with the family may all be interrupted by firefighting. Late nights and early mornings, training, suppers and special events we may participate in."
"Coming home smelling like smoke and dirty are just part of the job," McElveen said.
"We may not be in the best of moods depending on the call," McElveen added. "These things impact our families so we appreciate you and your patience and dedication to our responsibility."
The MFD gives certificates for five to 15 years of service and plaques beginning at 20 years of service. McElveen said that this year the recognition reflected 145 years of service to the department.
McElveen recognized seven firefighters for their continued service to the residents of Manning. Firefighter Jessica Weinberg received her 10-year certificate. Retired MFD Capt. Thomas D. Ardis received his 25-year plaque. Firefighter Rubin Hardy received his 25-year plaque. Lt. James "Mickey" Kindell and Capt. James "Hound Dog" Pringle received 30-year plaques. MFD Safety Officer Robbie Elmore received his 30-year plaque. Firefighter Tom Coffey was not present; however, he earned a 25-year plaque.
The guest speaker for the banquet was Newberry Fire Chief Keith Minick, who addressed the firefighters and their family members and friends about the importance of the three Fs - family, friends and faith.
Minick also talked about the meaning behind the Maltese Cross.
"It's a symbol of protection," Minick said. "It's a firefighter's badge of honor."
The Maltese Cross has eight points, and each point has its own significance to firefighting. The points include gallantry, sympathy, tact, observation, perseverance, loyalty, dexterity and explicitness, Minick added.
The Newberry fire chief said that while the points of the Maltese Cross reflect the values of a firefighter, the points also reflect the beliefs and values of a firefighter's spouse and family.
"Don't forget that with signing up to serve your community," Minick said, "You are a servant."
Firefighter Larry Williamson received one of the three prestigious awards handed out at the banquet, the Top Dog Award.
"This is not an award that is given," McElveen said. "It is earned."
With as many as a dozen volunteers vying for the award, McElveen said the votes had to be counted three times to verify the winner.
"This is the second time he has won this award," Manning's Fire Chief said. "He has over 50 years of service to this department, and there is no better person that we like to see when there is downed power lines or during severe storms where power outages are occurring."
McElveen presented Pringle with the Beyond the Call of Duty award.
McElveen gave the recipient's name away when he began describing the winner.
"I can assure you that this firefighter knows every street in Manning and 98 percent of the people who live in Manning and where they live and who they are kin to," McElveen said with a laugh. "From our tours in the city, I have realized that he has lived at one time or another on every city block."
Everyone knows the old saying that "he will give you the shirt off his back," McElveen said.
"I am a witness to the fact that this is true about him," he said of his friend and employee. "I have seen it numerous times. We have been through numerous fires, hurricanes, floods and other long days together, and I have witnessed the extra mile that he will go to assist people in a time of need."
While Pringle is a captain in the MFD, he is also a reserve officer with the Manning Police Department.
"I hear the phone calls he gets," McElveen said. "The people who come to the fire department to talk to him. A lot of them come seeking advice and help. And, there goes another shirt off his back. He is willing to help anyone in any way possible on a daily basis. He is an outstanding provider to the City of Manning in every way and is one heck of a firefighter."
The last award of the evening went to a relative newcomer to the department.
The MFD's Firefighter of the Year became a volunteer with the department in October 2018, moved to part-time status in May 2019 and became a fulltime firefighter within the department in August 2019.
While serving with the MFD, the Firefighter of the Year is also a volunteer with the Clarendon County Fire Department.
McElveen told the attendees that "hiring a new firefighter is a hard thing to do."
"You get applications from firefighters who have numerous training certificates and who have done it all," he said. "You get applications from people who think they deserve the job no matter what and then you get an application where you just say, this is the one no matter what the experience or training but the personality and demeanor just sticks out. You feel he will be a dedicated employee, eager to train and learn and especially become a benefit to the citizens of Manning. This firefighter has proved the latter is true."
The FFOY award is chosen from all the personnel within the department.
"Receiving an award from your fellow firefighters is one of the greatest tests of our dedication and service to this department and to this community," McElveen said when naming the FFOY winner.
"It is my pleasure and honor to announce that our Firefighter of the Year is Matthew Cartledge," McElveen added.
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