MINT HILL – It seems that Baron Hendrix was destined to become a firefighter with the Mint Hill Fire Department.
Growing up, Hendrix watched his father, Roger, perform various roles with the department. When Hendrix turned 16 years old in 2006, he signed on to become a volunteer firefighter.
Six years later, Hendrix became a full-time firefighter with the department, and the Butler High School graduate has never looked back.
Despite moving up the ladder to his current rank of engineer, Hendrix strives to become a better firefighter. In December, he earned a bachelor’s degree in fire and emergency administration from Fayetteville State University.
That hard-earned degree has allowed Hendrix to receive an education and advance certification incentive from the department for earning a bachelor’s degree, which is the first time that has happened since Fire Chief David Leath has led the department. That incentive means a 10 percent bump in pay.
“We try to encourage them to do that,” Leath said. “Baron is an excellent firefighter, and he has gone up in the ranks. We had some that had earned that when I got here, but Baron is the first to do it since I have been chief.”
The first two years as a volunteer, Hendrix was restricted in what he could and couldn’t do because of safety and insurance liability rules, but that didn’t slow him down.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I really enjoyed it,” Hendrix said. “I started as a junior, but you really can’t do much as a junior. I could get hose line, change (air breathing) bottles. I was highly encouraged to get all my certifications, so I took all my classes.”
When his 18th birthday rolled around, Hendrix was certified to get on the truck. He said that sense of purpose in helping citizens has remained the same over the years.
“There was a lot of adrenaline,” Hendrix said. “There is a lot of excitement when you are younger. Don’t get me wrong, there is still excitement when the tones go off. But the older you get, you have to think about the list of things you have to keep in mind before you get there.”
Hendrix’s rank of engineer means that he drives one of the department’s ladder trucks to service calls.
“There is a lot of responsibility, but it is something I really enjoy,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix, like all Mint Hill firefighters, works a 24-hour shift when on duty and he said there is always plenty to do while waiting for the “tone to go off.” Firefighters check and re-check the fire trucks and the equipment on them at the start of a shift and they are constantly training.
“We look at everything,” Hendrix said. “There is a real good chance we are going to need that equipment, and it would be bad to find out at a scene that something isn’t there.”
There are also more mundane chores like making sure the fire station is clean and preparing meals.
“If we cook, I cook,” he said.
Hendrix said he has no plans to change careers or move to a different fire department.
“Absolutely, this is my career. I’m seven years deep now,” he said. “I’ve thought about the Charlotte route or going other places, but I’m from Mint Hill. This is where I grew up. Getting to help this community is one of the best parts of this job.”