DFRD bids farewell to Johnson

When Carl Johnson wakes up Monday, he will no longer be a full-time member of the Demopolis Fire and Rescue Department. But, while Johnson has officially retired from his role of assistant chief with DFRD, he has no intention to cease his service to the city or his fellow man.

“I’m still the guy that is going to see the little old lady changing a flat and just stop because it is the right thing to do,” Johnson said. “I get more out of it than she does because it makes me think, ‘Hey, I did what God wanted me to do.’ We’re here to help. We’re here to serve. We’re here to love one another.”

Johnson began with the department in 1987, a career opportunity that presented itself at a tenuous time in his young adult life. Knowing that the job he was working at the time was only temporary, Johnson began playing basketball after work with friends from the fire department. It was at their prodding and through a prayerful decision-making process that Johnson opted to apply for a job in the department.

“I never played with fire trucks,” Johnson said, pointing to the fact that he had never previously considered a career in fire services. “I know I was led to this job. It has just been so rewarding. There have just been so many times I could help people.”

According to DFRD Chief Ronnie Few, Johnson has done as much to help his coworkers and advance the department’s ability to serve its community as anyone who has been a member of squad.

“We’re going to miss Carl tremendously. He has been a good leader in our department. He has been an excellent asset. His ability to work with people, even out in our public, has been tremendous to me. It is going to be difficult for us to replace him because he has brought so much to the table. Our fire department wouldn’t be what it is if it hadn’t been for a good assistant chief like him. I don’t know who can fill his shoes, but it is going to have to be a good person to do that,” Few said. “We have made some tremendous strides having a full-service fire department. Had it not been for Assistant Chief Johnson, it wouldn’t have occurred. When we look back at HAZMAT, when we look back at EMS, when we look back at water rescue services, when we look back at high angle rescue, I could just go on and on talking about it. All our education programs, Carl has been a part of those as well.”

But as much as Johnson’s day-to-day impact as a department member will be missed at DFRD, it is the absence of his personality that will leave a void at Fire Station No. 1.

“Not only is he a comrade in the fire service, but he is a good friend as well. I call him my little brother,” Few said. “We don’t know how we are going to replace him, but we’ve got to get somebody to fill those shoes. We wish him all the luck, but at the same time, we’re going to miss him.”

“The people that have gone before me, I miss them. I know I’m going to miss the guys here. The guys have been so supportive,” Johnson said. “Times have changed for me over the years from riding the trucks on the back of the bumper to moving into seats with straps. The equipment is getting better. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the heart, the willingness to be the answer for somebody’s problem.”