Thursday, 21 January 2021 11:32

Retired Rockingham fireman remembered by peers

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Retired Rockingham fireman Wayne Covington give a short speech after winning Best Firefighter in the 2020 Best of the Rock Awards. Retired Rockingham fireman Wayne Covington give a short speech after winning Best Firefighter in the 2020 Best of the Rock Awards. RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County’s first responder community is mourning the loss of recently retired fireman Wayne Covington.

Covington spent 30 years with the Rockingham Fire Department, retiring in August of 2019.

He previously told the RO that he had either wanted to be a police officer or fireman, so took the opportunity to join the fire department offered by Vernon McKinnon in 1988.

Through the years, Covington worked his way up the ranks from firefighter to engineer and retired as a lieutenant, serving under chiefs Charles Trotter, Charles Gardener and Harold Isler.

Firefighters young and old offered their memories on social media Wednesday night after hearing of his passing.

Former fireman Frankie Moree said he had known Covington since Kindergarten.

“We were friends in grade school through high school,” Moree said in a Facebook post late Wednesday night. “We graduated and shortly thereafter went to work at Rockingham Fire Department for another 18 years. We spent almost our entire lives together.”

The two went on many calls together, including the devastating 1991 Imperial Foods Fire in Hamlet, which Covington previously said was the most difficult incident he had ever worked.

“That was the roughest fire I’ve ever been in because I lost some of my loved ones,” Covington soberly recalled in 2019. “That was tough … it was tough for everybody in the county.”

Moree said that they pulled out one of Covington’s cousins.

“We have gone through hell literally together,” Moree said. “He was one of a kind and he was one the best friends I have ever had ... this man meant the world to me. We held each other’s lives in our hands on many, many occasions (...) you don’t share that bond with many people if ever.”

Heather Bellamy, who practically grew up at the station, called him “Uncle Wayne.” She became the city’s first full-time female firefighter shortly after Covington retired.

“I am completely at a loss for words,” she said in a post. “You watched me go from running around the station barefoot and in diapers to running around trying to gear up to catch the truck. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.”

Social media condolences were offered by several local departments, including Hamlet and Cordova. Many first responders changed their profile pictures to a photo of a RFD lieutenant's badge with a black band across it in Covington’s honor.

Covington won best firefighter in the inaugural Best of the Rock Awards in 2020.