Rookie of the Year: ‘Always fascinated with fire trucks growing up’

Jennifer Shrader Staff writer

September 27, 2013

One of the most memorable calls for rookie West Point firefighter Matthew White is the most memorable for firefighting veterans in the city.

It was March 17, 2012 and Daehan, the Kia supplier in the Northwest Harris Business Park, was on fire. White, now 22, was behind the wheel of the ambulance. Crews already knew it was a working fire from the first truck on the scene.

“We turned on 103 and you could see the glow of the fire,” White said. “Then we turned into the park and you could see the flames over the trees.”

White always wanted to be a firefighter.

“I was always fascinated with fire trucks growing up,” he said. The job hasn’t disappointed.

“Every day there are surprises,” he said. “Every call is something different.”

A few weeks ago, White got called to the office. Chief Mitt Smith got him to come in by telling him he’d won an award. When he got to the station, White found out he’d been named state rookie of the year by the Georgia Firefighters Association.

Smith had nominated White for the honor.

“We nominated firefighters for several awards this year and Matt was our only winner,” Smith said. “He beat the odds.”

An Alabama native, White began his fire service career with formal training at the Auburn, Ala., Fire Academy. Since he joined the West Point Fire Department, became a licensed paramedic, completed his annual hazardous materials update, and has participated in and completed his entry level driver training as required by his department.

After receiving his GED, White joined the United States Army Reserve where he completed his EMT-B training. He has several firefighter and hazardous material certifications.

Smith was impressed by the fact White started out as a volunteer in Huguley, Ala., then went to work part-time for West Point and put himself through firefighter school. He then went to paramedic school which is normally a huge time commitment for those who attend.

While in paramedic school, White got married.

“He went above and beyond our minimum requirements,” Smith said. “He passed all his exams the first time. He’s been successful.”