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Dedication to job earns firefighter top award

Town 'N Country firefighter Capt. John Rankin, 23, went from ambulance driving to full-time firefighting.

By JANE BOKUN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- Firefighting may have been John Rankin's second choice for a career, but he has taken the job and run with it.

Named Firefighter of the Year by the Town 'N Country Fire Rescue Association, Rankin, 23, said he "likes the job a lot."

At one time this Eagle Scout had other plans. "I always wanted to be an Air Force pilot," Rankin said, but at 6 feet 3, he was told he was too tall.

So the Town & Country native settled on another position as an Emergency Medical Technician with the American Medical Response company of Tampa. "I like driving ambulances, but I wanted something more," he said.

Rankin, who lives off George Road, kept his hand in firefighting with his side job as an unpaid volunteer firefighter for the past six years. He recently starting firefighting on a paid basis and was offered the job full time. After that, he quickly quit his job with the ambulance company.

Now a captain, Rankin was elected Firefighter of the Year by 70 percent of his peers.

"I like working with the people I work with," he said. "I honestly feel I wouldn't have gotten the award without them."

Town 'N Country fire Chief Troy Rozelle described Rankin as "a fantastic worker" who "puts in a lot of time at about 300 plus hours a month, and he's among our top leaders."

Rozelle said Rankin's time has been even more remarkable because until recently, he has done the work without pay. "John became part of the paid crew a few months ago, but before that he would work every third day for free," Rozelle said.

Rankin is known for being the first to arrive at the scene of an accident. Recently, Rozelle said, Rankin was part of a team that helped resuscitate a drowning man. "We're a different breed of person," Rozelle said. "And John has taken this job on tremendously."

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