Beaufort’s Deer named top firefighter in North Carolina

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Lauren Deer, a Beaufort native and a 2002 graduate of Beaufort High School, was recognized as Firefighter of the Year for the state of North Carolina at the state’s annual awards banquet last month.

Deer, a volunteer firefighter for Northern Wake Fire Department, earned the award at the annual North Carolina State Firefighter’s Association and Association of Fire Chiefs award banquet Aug. 25 after being nominated by her fire chief Tim Pope.

Deer, the daughter Bill and Teena Deer, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Clemson University, a master’s degree in divinity from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, and is completing her doctorate degree in ministry from Campbell University. She is also an ordained minister.

Her mother Teena, a retired teacher with the Beaufort County School District, said it was Lauren’s uncle Drew who ignited her passion in the fire service.

When Lauren Deer was 16 and visiting family in Easton, Md,, her uncle, the town’s volunteer fire chief, took her with him on an emergency call, and it was then that Deer knew the fire service was for her. As soon as she turned 18, Deer started volunteering as a firefighter locally, and began with the City of Beaufort Fire Department. 

While serving with Beaufort, she was an active member of its fire prevention programs, working with Burton Fire Captain Daniel Byrne, then Beaufort’s Fire Marshal, in local schools and businesses teaching safety, in addition to completing her firefighter training. 

It was also here in Beaufort that Deer’s mother Teena said fuel was added to her passion. Ever since, Deer has maintained a continuous connection with the fire service as a volunteer in other local communities. She became a local celebrity of sorts for the town of Wallace, N.C. as the first female firefighter.

In his nomination, Northern Wake’s Chief Pope said, “She has truly been a blessing to me personally, our department, our members and our community.” 

While Pope said Deer is consistently a top 5 percent performer in all categories monitored by the fire department, from responses to training hours, it is her services as a mentor and chaplain that really has made a difference for his department. 

Pope said that during the emotional passing of a beloved Fire Captain, Robert Nordman, who lost his battle with cancer last December, it was Lauren who kept their department together and got them through by guiding and counseling their firefighters and families, and remaining by Robert’s side during his final days. 

“She was the glue that held us all together,” Pope said.

In addition to volunteering with the Northern Wake Fire Department, Lauren also volunteers with the N.C. First Responder Peer Support Team, which travels the state and counsels firefighters and their families who have suffered or experienced a crisis or trauma. It is here that Lauren hopes her doctoral work will continue to help her serve and strengthen her fellow firefighters throughout the state as they serve their communities. Lauren stated she hopes to bring awareness to the difficulties firefighters face as they deal with trauma, and help them find solutions in doing so. 

“To be nominated as the firefighter of the year for a state is one thing,” said Byrne, who attended the ceremony as Deer’s guest, “but to do so as a volunteer says so much more. She accomplished this not only by excelling in her profession, but by excelling in her passion as well. That passion is helping others and placing their needs before hers. Lauren has a purpose on this Earth and she is living it. She is a product of the family and community that raised her. Our community and the school district should be proud of what they sent into the world.”

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