Jerry Sewell named firefighter of the yearPublished 8:13pm Friday, March 7, 2014
Though he has been a volunteer firefighter since age 18, Jerry Sewell didn’t work professionally battling blazes until 2008.
Now, after some 29 years of volunteer firefighting and 6 years of working professionally, Sewell has earned the honor of being named Alexander City Firefighter of the Year.
Sewell, who serves as chief of Kellyton Volunteer Fire Department, made the switch to professional firefighting following the downsizing of Russell Corp.
“I had a background in it from a volunteer standpoint, but not from a career standpoint,” Sewell said, “It was a unique transition. I have enjoyed the years I have been so far, and it was an honor to be named firefighter of the year by my peers.”
Alexander City Fire Department Chief Kem Jones said this year’s decision on firefighter of the year was tough, but “Sewell outshined the rest just a little bit.”
“Sewell is a great employee,” Jones said. “He has a great personality, he is action-oriented and he is autonomous. You don’t have to ask him to do something – he sees what needs to be done and does it.”
One of Sewell’s toughest challenges upon making the switch was getting his paramedic certification, which takes two years. Sewell said of the experience that when he began, he was 46, and getting back into the swing of studying was tough.
“It was well worth it, though it didn’t feel like it while I was going through it,” Sewell joked. “I am glad it’s over, and I am glad I got it and am now able to help people on the medical side of things.”
Jones said Sewell should serves as an example that it’s never too late to make a career change.
“Sewell was in his 40s when he started here,” Jones said.
“To change careers and go into something this physical demanding and all the strenuous studies, that within itself should be a motivator for a lot of people in the city. He has accomplished a lot. It can be done.”
On his days off, Sewell divides his time between the Kellyton Water Department and KVFD, “whichever needs me most,” he added.
He said helping people is the best aspect of being a firefighter.
“You get to help people and see the outcome and difference you make in someone’s life,” Sewell said. “Whether you save their property, their life or a loved one, you get to be there for people in their time of need.”