Recognition that’s burning bright: Clemmons firefighter recognized for his service

Published 12:10 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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By Christian Simmons

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Born in Winston-Salem, John “Taylor” Pennington, attended school in Clemmons. Throughout his childhood, Pennington visited various fire stations that his father, the Clemmons Fire captain, was assigned to. 

Along with being the fire captain, Pennington’s father also competed in the Firefighter Combat Challenges for more than 25 years across the United States. 

“Where he went, I went with him to watch him compete,” Pennington said. 

Pennington quickly became immersed in the world of combating blazes and that started him on his journey to become a firefighter himself. 

No other job, occupation or career would do for Pennington. A fireman was all he wanted to be. 

“The firefighters I was around as a kid became my role models,” Pennington said. “I could name pieces of equipment on the trucks when I was only five and I knew where most of the fire stations were in Winston-Salem as well as which trucks would respond to what calls around town. When my dad was on duty, I would talk to him about the calls he responded to and about what was happening at the fire department.” 

When Pennington attended school, he stuck with the sports most kids flocked to. He played baseball, football and even basketball. 

But when the schooling was over, Pennington set his sights on being a firefighter as his upbringing led him to. 

At West Forsyth High School, Pennington made decent grades but still kept his thoughts on being a firefighter. He even attended the Clemmons and Winston-Salem Fire Cadet programs when he was 14 where he learned about procedures and policies for both departments. 

When he attended Guilford Technical College, he made a vow to himself that once he completed his courses there, he would become a fireman. 

At the Fire Academy, Pennington, filled with the desire to become a fireman, felt the weight of that desire. Things became difficult and he even thought about quitting and running away from his dream of being a fireman.

“Once it finally dawned on me how dangerous firefighting could be, I renewed my commitment, refocused on my goal of being a fireman, finished the program, and never looked back since,” Pennington said. 

“Passing all of the certification classes along with the many hours of study and practical experiences, took a lot of time and effort. People don’t realize how many on-the-job hours and classes that a firefighter has to go through to stay current with his training in order to be ready for the next call or the unexpected that may happen,” Pennington said about his struggles. 

Although he loves being a firefighter and wouldn’t trade it for the world, Pennington does understand the sacrifice he has to make everyday. 

“The hardest part about being a firefighter is the time away from family and the home,” Pennington said. “You often work on holidays and you may miss many of life’s events like birthdays as well as friend and family gatherings. On top of the job, there are constant training and classes to take. You also never know what you’ll find on a call when you’re on duty. But with all that being said, being a firefighter is an honest and honorable job and most people respect what they do.” 

This past December, Pennington was presented an award for his work at the Clemmons Fire Department. 

“I was awarded the FireFighter of the Year Award for the Clemmons Fire Department after members of the department nominated me for it,” Pennington said. “They submitted my name for the award to the Forsyth County Firefighters Association where the chiefs and senior firefighters made the decision.

“I have mentored several younger firefighters and continue to work with the Cadet Program to encourage new members and about the career of firefighting. Constantly improving my own skills and training while taking additional classes and workshops that have helped me gain both managerial skills as well as practical firefighting techniques.” 

After being awarded, Pennington reflected on what brought him to that point. 

“My goals have always been to continue to grow in my chosen career and to be the best firefighter I can be,” Pennington said. “I wasn’t expecting to win any awards, but I was honored to be chosen above all the other firefighters that could have been chosen. The crew that I work with at the Clemmons Fire Department have helped me to become a better firefighter and I could not have done any of it on my own. We encourage and uplift each other everyday and try to serve the community of Clemmons the best we can.” 

Keeping an eye on the future, Pennington knows what he plans on. 

“I will continue to take classes and workshops to grow my skills and procedures whenever I possibly can,” he said. “I hope to get promoted in the near future and I will continue to mentor new firefighters.”