COWETA COUNTY, Ga. - A Coweta County firefighter who died in the line of duty this week is being remembered as an incredible firefighter, father and husband.
Michael Norton, 38, responded to an early morning structure fire Wednesday morning.
“We had a fire and (being) the kind of fireman he is, he said, ‘Hey, I'm ready to go back in,’ and I said "No you're not. You need to sit back over there and rehab and take it easy,’ but that's the kind of guy he was,” Shift Commander Craig Sherrer said.
Norton then got off his shift and went home. His wife said he seemed fine, but hours later she heard a noise and woke up to find him in medical distress.
He was rushed to the hospital, where he died Thursday morning. Because he died less than 24 hours after his shift, his death is considered in the line of duty. Fire Chief Pat Wilson said it could be 14 weeks before the official cause of death is known.
He leaves behind his wife, Britney, and daughter, Braelinn.
Norton was a 17-year veteran of the department and worked as a firefighter and paramedic. His is the first line-of-duty death in the history of the department.
“We're like a family. We spend 33 percent of our lives together and so it's difficult,” Sherrer said.
Flags across the county are flying at half-staff Friday.
“I worked many special rescue calls with him and he was always in the front wanting to go in and get the person or do whatever he could do to get them out,” Sherrer said.
- Police make second arrest in Tara Grinstead case
- FBI investigating hack of KSU server, including state voter data
- Man out for morning jog attacked by coyote
Norton was a leader in the department.
“He was always the quarterback that would get everybody together to say, 'This is what we're going to do and this is how we're going to do it,'” Sherrer said.
Wilson says Norton was about to take a test for a promotion to lieutenant. He was also on an advisory board planning the future of the department.
“Great guy, great father, great husband, There's nothing more that I can say but just that he was a genuine person. He was really an angel,” fellow firefighter Robert Hardaway said.
His co-workers say one of the things they will miss the most is his smile.
“It was absolutely infectious. I get chill bumps thinking about missing his smile,” Wilson said.
Friday was the first shift without Norton at Fire Station No. 1.
“It is the loss of a brother, and, it's tough right now, but we'll continue to pray together and lean on one other to get through it,” Hardaway said.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.