NEWBERRY — Lieutenant Andrew Morris with the City of Newberry’s Fire Department was recently honored with the James B. Murphy Firefighter of the Year award by the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association. The award was presented to Morris on Saturday, June 16 during the South Carolina Fire Rescue Conference in Columbia.
Murphy served as an attorney for the S.C. Firemen’s Association from 1933-1937 and again from 1945-1961. During this time, he became well known for his dedication and hard work for the association.
Given annually, the award is presented to one individual who best exemplifies the characteristic of a firefighter and who has an outstanding record of fire service achievements. The characteristics are not restricted to heroic action, but instead encompass all aspects of productive, dedicated and professional service at local, state, or regional levels.
Morris has been with the City’s fire department for over 13 years, starting first as a volunteer. After graduating from college, Morris said he really wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but knew he needed to get to work.
“I started looking and landed here,” Morris said of the city’s fire department.
After volunteering for a little over a year, Morris said he knew he wanted to come to work full time. Morris describes the fire service as a fraternal organization with a certain level of comradery to come with it.
While police officers, EMS and those in other public services all provide a unique service, Morris said what he specifically liked about the fire service was his ability to give back to the community.
“When people pick up the phone and don’t know who else to call, you get to be the person that comes to their aid,” Morris said. “I realized that I had the ability to offer something unique.”
Earlier this year, Morris’ coworker, Daniel Werts decided to take the initiative to nominate him for the award after seeing the criteria online.
“I think that a lot of people read the criteria for these but don’t act on filling them out,” Werts said. “I felt like the City of Newberry had a good candidate so I made the nomination. You never know if you don’t give it a chance.”
Werts said that Morris came to mind as someone that worked for the city and set the standard for all the criteria that was listed to be a recipient. When he received word Morris had been chosen, Werts said he was shocked, but glad he had decided to turn in a nomination.
“Everyone in this job has to be dedicated to a certain extent, but Andrew is the kind of person that puts a lot more into it than the job requires,” Werts said.
In 2012, Morris was named Firefighter of the Year for the City of Newberry and received the Newberry County Firefighter of the Year in 2013 through the Newberry Exchange Club.
Through his recent promotions, Werts said Morris always works hard to make sure everyone on his shift knows as much as he does.
“It really unifies the group,” Werts said.
To have been nominated by his peers, Morris said was an amazing gesture that meant a lot to him.
“It means a lot from the people that see you daily,” Morris said. “They see the things I’m really good at, but also the things that I’m lacking in.”
Knowing that it was not an easy process and one that took a bit of time to complete, Morris said he was appreciative of Werts’ nomination.
“The fact that I received the award was really an honor, but even if I had not received it, it was an honor that he nominated me,” Morris said.
Fire Chief Keith Minick said it meant a lot to him that a staff member had received such an honor. When you think of a firefighter of the year, the idea of an extraordinary event or rescue may come to mind. However, in many cases, a firefighter of the year is someone more than a person who has committed an act of heroism.
The aspects of being a firefighter more often include their character, dedication, loyalty, professionalism and service above self, Minick said.
“I think it’s great for our department to have someone not only nominated, but receive the award that shows his dedication to the fire service,” Minick said.
Because he began with the city as a volunteer, Morris said for those considering work in the fire service, it was a great way to know what he was getting into.
To volunteer, those interested can reach out to the city’s fire department at 803-321-1030 and speak with Gene Shealy, recruitment and retention coordinator. For teens ages 14-18, Morris said the city had an explorer program that offered a look inside the fire service for youth.
“On the one hand, it’s not an easy job, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, it’s the easiest thing that you can do,” Morris said. “I think the biggest thing you could do if interested is to get involved locally to see if the shoe fits.”
Getting involved in the fire service, Morris said was a lot more than hopping into a big, red fire truck and driving as fast as you could and was both taxing physically as well as on a family unit.
Morris said his wife and family had always been very supportive in his decision to join the fire service and they were excited to share the news of his most recent accomplishment of receiving firefighter of the year.