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By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
CHINA GROVE ó Mike Dennis, a longtime volunteer with the China Grove Fire Department, has been honored for helping save a family from a burning house.
Dennis, who doesn’t drive and routinely walks to the Fire Department, walked out his front door around 4 p.m. on New Year’s Day.
The house across the street at 112 W. Vance St. was on fire.
“There was smoke coming out of the roof. Flames were coming out one side of the house,” Dennis recalled this week.
He rushed across the street and helped the family get out of the house, making sure all of the children were safe. And he kept the children from going back in as firefighters arrived and battled the blaze.
His efforts earned him the gratitude of the Johnny and Wendy Overcash family as well as an award from the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s office.
Deborah Horne, county fire inspector/investigator and a member of the China Grove department, was one of the people responding to the Vance Street fire.
When the Overcash family told her about Dennis’ efforts, she talked with Fire Marshal Tom Murphy, who agreed to begin a recognition program for county firefighters.
“We are really proud of all our firefighters,” Horne said. “We are really proud of Mike Dennis and what he has been able to accomplish. He’s a special dude.”
The 59-year-old Dennis is something of a fixture in downtown China Grove. He works at Goodman’s Farm Supply, across the street from the Fire Department.
He walks three blocks from his home to Goodman’s morning and evening, and he stops by the Fire Department to check on things morning and evening.
Chief Jeff Gledhill said Dennis provides a morale boost, and he checks to make sure doors are closed and everything is in order.
“Everybody knows him,” Gledhill said.
Dennis particularly likes going to ball games and other events the Fire Department staffs.
Dennis is still being congratulated on his award.
His church, Mount Moriah Lutheran, honored him Sunday.
Dennis never expected an award. “It hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said this week.
The crew at Goodman’s says he’s about worn out the plaque. He’s been showing it to everybody.
Allan Goodman and his co-workers think they may know the force behind Dennis’ energy and upbeat attitude: his own special sandwiches.
His daily lunch special is Spam and pimento cheese.
But Dennis also has his “Suicide Special,” that starts with pimento cheese, peanut butter, pickles ó and whatever else is in the refrigerator.
Dennis and Joshua Smith from the East Spencer Fire Department are the first recipients of the new award.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@ salisburypost.com.

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