Decades of firefighting taught Minyard trust, faith
By DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ
May 1, 2018
It takes heart — nearly three decades in the fire service has taught Harry Minyard that it takes a brave and open heart to fight fires.
“If you ain’t got the heart to do it, you won’t do a good job,” he said. “Something’s got to grow on you.”
The 56-year-old master firefighter started working for the Greenwood Fire Department in 1989, and when he retires in June he’ll have spent 28 years and 10 months battling blazes.
Before he started in the fire service, the Greenwood-area native was working at the Sloan Plant when a relative gave him a tip on a new job opening.
“My cousin, Milton Pope, he said they have some openings at the fire department — do you want to apply,” Minyard said.
He didn’t have a longstanding love of firefighting or a family legacy in it, but he took the job and became passionately engrossed in it like many other firefighters do. Nowadays, he works in a station built 15 years into his career — Station 3 is on Jenkins Spring Road, just off S.C. Highway 225. At one point, he went nearly a decade without once calling in sick from work, said Greenwood Fire Chief Terry Strange.
“Each shift, we know what each guy can do and his limitations,” he said.
The value of experience is familiarity. For Minyard, he knows how each of his fellow firefighters behaves when they’re on a scene. That’s critical in a job where one slip-up can mean the difference between life or death for the people he’s rescuing, or even him.
“I went to one fire, I think it was on Taggart,” Minyard recalled. “I was putting water on it from inside, and it wasn’t doing nothing — there was so much junk in there you couldn’t hit the base. Eventually it got so hot in there it was about to flash. I heard the sirens. I’ll never forget that.”
It was the closest brush he had with death, and thankfully he got out unscathed, but it taught him the value of the training he has and the team he has around him. In a fire, there are situations and variables far beyond any one man’s control, which is why each firefighter has to have the utmost faith in the person next to him, Minyard said.
His interpersonal skills and the personality he’s brought to the fire department is what Strange said his fellow firefighters will miss the most about him.
“I have never, as long as I’ve known him, seen him without a smile on his face,” Strange said. “Everyone around him loves him. He endears himself to everyone he comes across.”
Modern stations may have computers, thermal imaging cameras and technology that helps firefighters every day, but at the core of good firefighting is a willingness to learn.
“If you ain’t learning, you’d better get out of this company,” he said. “You can never know everything.”
And for those thinking of becoming a firefighter, Minyard said there’s no better tip than to simply work hard, listen, put God first and do the best job possible.
“Nothing’s going to be given to you. You’ve got to earn it,” he said. “Sometimes you take shortcuts, but that’s where they get you. That’s where you get hurt.”