VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — “The best thing an old firefighter can teach a young firefighter, is how to be an old firefighter.”
This was the line Mike McAndrews, 65, used when writing a letter to his colleagues, announcing his retirement after more than 40 years with the Virginia Beach Fire Department.
“I’ve enjoyed the guys I’ve worked with,” McAndrews said Wednesday night. “I’ve learned a lot from them and hopefully the learned a little bit from me.”
It was 1975, when McAndrews joined as a career firefighter. It was a year earlier however, that he was attending Tidewater Community College, dead set on becoming a high school teacher.
“My brother was in the fire service,” McAndrews said. “We teased him and called him ‘Sparky.’
But the teasing quickly ended when one day, while McAndrews was hanging around the fire house, a call came in for a church fire on Indian River Road.
“And one of the guys goes, ‘you want to go?’,” McAndrews said. “I was hooked!”
The McAndrews’ service to Virginia Beach didn’t stop at Mike and one brother. He is the oldest of eight.
“Three others came on, there were 5 of us working for the department at one time,” McAndrews said.
His last shift will be on October 30, Virginia Beach requires firefighters to retire at 65.
On that day, McAndrews will turn over his helmet that currently reads “Senior Man.”
“When I retire the next senior guy will get one,” McAndrews said.
As of right now he is not exactly sure what he will do in retirement, but plans to enjoy sleeping in his own bed full time.
CORRECTION: In the broadcast version of the story it was written that Mike McAndrews’ older brother was in the fire service first. In fact, Mike is the older brother. WAVY-TV regrets the error.