Twenty years ago, Forsyth County made the leap from an all-volunteer fire department to a partially paid department, hiring 30 new firefighters, including Michael Sheuring, who retired this week.
He’s the first of those original firefighters, nicknamed the “Dirty Thirty,” to retire from the department.
Sheuring said that he’ll miss the camaraderie of his extended family.
“With this crew, it really has been a family … you spend a third of your life together, so you really get to know each other,” Shuering said. “If you come in having a bad day, they’ll know it and help you get over whatever it is. We take care of each other.”
The biggest change Sheuring saw in his time with the department is the equipment that firefighters have to work with.
“It’s night and day,” Sheuring said. “We’ve gone from one or two men on an engine that had basic equipment to running full crews driving engines that have everything we need to do our job.”
Other than the equipment, Sheuring says the county has also changed a lot.
“The traffic, the amount of building, all the road construction…this all means the county is growing, and we had to grow with it,” Sheuring said.
When Sheuring first started, the department only had one paid firefighter at most of the stations, with a few of the busier ones having two on duty at a time.
“When we started, we’d bring the engine to the fire, but a lot of the firefighting was also done by volunteers who came on their own,” Sheuring said. “Now we’ve got staffed stations all over the county, which is great.”
Sheuring is glad to see new people stepping up to take on the challenges of the growing department, but says it’s important that new firefighters listen to the voice of experience.
“I’d tell them to come in with an open mind, be ready to learn, and listen to the senior people,” Sheuring said. “They don’t realize it, but it’s a big responsibility. The future of their department is in their hands.”