‘I just want to make Mike proud:’ Vidalia’s first female firefighter fulfills late husband’s dream

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:48 PM EDT
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VIDALIA, Ga. (WTOC) - A Toombs County widow now serves her community while honoring her late husband.

Jamie Byrd says being a firefighter is not about making local history, but fulfilling a dream - a dream that didn’t start out as hers.

She’s only been on the job for days, but it already feels like home. The former substitute teacher joined the department along with her construction worker husband Mikell as volunteers.

“It got to the point he talked about fire more than construction. Mike was a builder, he loved it. But when it came to fire, it was a different kind of passion,” said Byrd.

Big Mike planned to join the department as a fulltime firefighter, with the blessing of Jamie and their four children. But doctors diagnosed him with leukemia. He passed away last August before his dream could happen.

That’s when Jamie, a 44-year-old mother of four, began thinking of applying herself. She was the top applicant and the city’s first female full time firefighter.

“After knowing her and her husband and working with both, it just feels like a circle being completed,” said Chief Brian Sikes.

Neither she nor the chief think that’s as important as carrying on Big Mike’s legacy.

“I just want to make Mike proud. I want to make the guys proud. I want the city to be proud of what I’m doing.”

Protecting her home, her family, and her husband’s memory.