The First Responder Spotlight Series features law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and other emergency personnel who make it their business to serve our communities, often in ways we never see, each and every day.
The series is sponsored by McKeithen’s True Value Hardware in Statesboro.
Spencer Rowe comes from a long line of first responders. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and dad all served their communities as firefighters – each in southwest Georgia. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side rose to the ranks of Chief in the City of Albany, but Rowe wasn’t always on track to go into fire service himself.
After dabbling in a few other areas, including marketing and auto tech, Rowe said he found himself interested in the shift work where he isn’t behind a desk doing the same thing every day. But despite his deep family roots in the ‘industry’ so to speak, when it came time to begin his own fire service career, Rowe decided to venture into another area of the state to climb the ladder.
That was eight years ago and Rowe has called the City of Statesboro his work home ever since. He’s risen to the rank of Fire Apparatus Operator, an additional step up from a Driver which also includes some supervisory responsibilities. While he’s moved back and forth between stations, he’s managed to work on the same shift for the duration of his career which has offered a sense of routine, planning, and advantages for personal life. Rowe lives in Bulloch County with his wife, Caitlin, whom he married in November 2020. She is a Statesboro native and a dental hygienist in town.
Having grown up in and around fire departments, Rowe says he feels blessed to work for the City of Statesboro. He says SFD is unique in that the superiors are looking out for the ones that work for them. “I know my Lieutenant and my Captain have everybody, our best interests at heart. The Battalion Chief, too. They try to do what’s best for the guys.” Work for a small department also leaves room for opportunity. Rowe said there’s a versatility in their roles and room to rise in ranks, if desired.
One of those that he’s really looked up to over his time with SFD is Battalion Chief Derrel Melton. Rowe added that it would be hard to attribute his own personal growth and success to just one person in the agency since he has been there since the start. He named Captain Strosnider, Lieutenant Applebee, and Captain Whitehead, who now works at GPSTC, as heavy influencers. “When I got here, it was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t understand the physicality of it and the mental toughness required and they have just continually pushed me,” Rowe said.
He loves the community, too. When asked about an incident that left a mark on him, Rowe referred to an incident roughly two years ago that involved a missing child.
“I was driving Lieutenant Barrs for a call to assist PD and other law enforcement for a missing child near Zetterower Ave. Lt. Barrs actually ended up finding the child later that night, but the impact on me was the response from the local community to look for the missing child.
Seeing all of the agencies that were out looking, cooperating, and helping in the search as well as the citizens in the area helping was a pretty humbling experience for me. Obviously it was a traumatic experience for the parents and the child – when we respond to a call, it is the worst day for someone there and we have the opportunity to help solve their problem or make their day a little better.
The call for the missing child really showed me how much this community cares about its citizens and how they will pull together to help out when someone is in need.”
If someone was considering becoming a firefighter, Rowe says he would encourage them to embody a certain level of open-mindedness since firefighting and administrations can and do continue to evolve over time. Also needed? A sense of humor and thick skin. “It’s called a brotherhood for a reason,” he said. “Working with these guys, you have to be tough and know that all of it out of love and respect.”