TMT: Tell me about yourself.
MJ: He is 44 years old. Was born in Sumter but has been a lifelong resident of Manning. He grew up in the Wilson Community of Clarendon County and now lives in Manning. He is married to Parker Wall Johnson and they have two boys, Allen (13) and Jack (6). He has a one dog, Otis and one cat, Oreo.
TMT: What inspired you to become a firefighter/fire chief?
MJ: It is a unique role. My father always taught me to be nice to others and serve them. You never, ever know what someone is going through. That’s what I get to do. I get to serve the people of our community. Ultimately, I do the very best that I can to try and make things safer. We are here to reduce the loss of life and property.
TMT: What was education and training like? Did you find it difficult?
MJ: Training is an ongoing process. To become a basic firefighter, you put in roughly 220 hours. That does not include any driving training or pump operations. To become an Emergency Medical technician, it is roughly 240 hours. These are basic training requirements. There are classes available to improve your knowledge and skills. We have monthly training also.
TMT: Tell me about your duties as a fire chief.
MJ: You name it, I do it. I am ultimately responsible for all of our members. I take care of submitting payroll, hiring process, fire and medical calls, driving firetrucks and ambulances, and the list goes on and on.
TMT:What motivates you as a fire chief?
MJ: I would say that everyone in our department is here to make a difference in people’s lives. There is a lot of negative things happening in our world, but our membership tries to make things better. I’m a positive person. I always try to look at the bright side of things.
TMT: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a fire chief?
MJ: Strengths: I am a humble person and a good listener. I try to always see things from every angle.
Weakness: I have a hard time saying no. I don’t like people being disappointed or overworked. Sometimes, I overwhelm myself with too many tasks.
TMT:Tell me, how stressful can the job of a fire chief be?
MJ: This is the most stressful position that I have ever been in. Our calls and emergencies never stop. It’s a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. We deal with things every day that people will never see in their lives, some of the worst days of their lives. So yes, it’s very stressful.
TMT: Have you ever encountered a dangerous and/or risky situation within this job?
MJ: Yes, in multiple situations. Interstate 95 is the one of the most dangerous highways I think there is. I have been on scenes of vehicle accidents, cutting people out of cars that they were trapped inside, and vehicle accidents were happening right around us. We do the very best that we can to block our workspaces on the Interstate, but it’s a dangerous place. In addition, I was in a house fire one day and we had a partial collapse. I was a company officer at the time and the smoke and heat conditions made it difficult to locate all crew members. Thankfully they were all able to escape through a window. Our members face dangerous and risky situations daily.
TMT: What’s your favorite thing about the job.
MJ: Our people. To see the difference that we make in people’s lives. It’s truly amazing to work with people who care so much about others.
TMT: I’ve seen on television that firefighters don’t see their families a lot due to how busy the job can get. Is this depiction true?
MJ: I would say it balances. However, we are away from our family for a very good amount of time. It is hard for our people to balance that work and family life because they are so dedicated. We have trainings at night and emergencies at night. You are always getting pulled away from your family.