LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) In an emergency, every second counts. That's partly why many fire departments have been moving from volunteer to paid, professional staffs.
Lexington began that process a few years ago and just hit a major milestone.
"There's a lot of quotes out there, but one of them is: Your first act of bravery as a fireman is when you take that oath," Lt. Willie Wines Jr. said. "And after that everything's supposed to be downhill and easy."
Mac Clemmer and Willie Wines Jr. stood in front of Lexington's City Council as Mayor Mimi Elrod carefully read the oath. Willie Wines Sr. sat in the front row.
"Firefighting, it's either in your blood or it's not in your blood," Wines Sr. said. "The badge is a symbol, but everybody knows what it means."
"It's in my blood. It's in my family; Dad was a firefighter for 30 years in Roanoke City," Lt. Wines Jr. said.
And with that, these two men marked a first for the Lexington Fired Department. Previously, the department had been all volunteer, but five years ago Lexington decided to hire full-time professionals. This City Council meeting was the first chance to formally swear in and pin badges on firefighters.
Lt. Clemmer had his badge pinned on by his seven-year-old daughter, Makenzie.
"I think that, other than her being born, I'd say it was probably the second best feeling," Lt. Clemmer said.
Then they got their certificates, but both were already on the job, pleased to start a new tradition in a new department.
"It's kind of neat to be one of the first ones sworn in. I'm excited," Lt. Wines, Jr. said.