Darlington honors top firefighters
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
The Darlington Fire Department recently honored two of its own for their outstanding service during 2015. At the department’s annual Christmas banquet, DFD named Lt. Joshua Williamson the Drake-Beckham Volunteer Firefighter of the Year, and named Engineer William Kiker as Firefighter of the Year.
Kiker, 37, came to the fire service around 1998 at the suggestion of friends, starting his career at Palmetto Rural Fire Department.
“When I first started, I immediately fell in love with it and I’ve been doing it ever since,” says Kiker, who remained with PRFD for more than a decade, eventually rising to the rank of captain.
Kiker came to the DFD about four years ago after working with the Darlington Streets and Sanitation Department, and came to DFD full time as soon as a position opened up. DFD Chief Pat Cavanaugh says he had to fight the street department to get Kiker away from them, but it was well-worth the trouble to gain the services of a fireman with such a unique skill set.
You see, Kiker is a rather powerfully built fellow who earned his nickname – “Mongo” – after kicking down a stubborn door at a fire scene with one boot strike. Played by Alex Karras in the 1974 comedy film “Blazing Saddles,” Mongo is a cowboy strongman who punched a horse out cold. Kiker graciously says he has chosen to feel flattered by the moniker.
Kiker says that ribbing is to be expected in a firehouse, but being named Firefighter of the Year, an award voted on by his DFD colleagues, is an honor he did not expect.
“It means a lot to me. There’s a lot of other fireman that are well-deserving of this, and for them to have chosen me… it’s hard to put into words how it makes you feel,” Kiker says.
Williamson, 24, earned the Drake-Beckham Award (Sponsored by the Garland Family and named in honor of two DFD Chiefs of the past) for his tireless training – putting in over 1,000 hours to keep his skills and certifications at top levels – and his leadership ability.
“Josh always puts in more time than what is required. Every time we had something going on, he was there helping out on different things,” says Cavanaugh.
A first generation firefighter, Williamson started with the fire service in 2009 with Darlington County.
“I got inspired watching different people in the fire service, and it kind of helped me decide on a direction. Plus, being around firemen helped keep me out of trouble,” says Williamson, who works full time as a truck driver for Southern States.
Williamson came to DFD three years ago and says he got hooked on the positive vibe in Darlington’s firehouse.
“The morale here is really high…it’s a great group of guys. And helping people in the city where I live is something I really wanted to do,” Williamson says.
Chief Cavanaugh says Williamson’s loyalty, work ethic, and love for the fire service made him an ideal candidate for promotion to lieutenant this past year. Williamson says he does not take his position lightly and intends to continue giving “one-hundred and five percent” to Darlington and his fellow firefighters in the future.