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Longest-serving member of Haines City Fire Department overcomes mental and physical disabilities

Posted at 5:27 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 17:52:39-04

HAINES CITY, Fla. — There’s nowhere in the world Andre Horton would rather be than at the Haines City fire station.

“If I get a chance, I would stay from sunup to sundown. That's how much I love it,” said Andre Horton.

His love for the fire department sparked as a young high school student, volunteering as part of the ESE summer work program.

“Told us if we could go out and volunteer somewhere for one hour. So I chose the fire department. My mother brought me up here and I washed the trucks. They pulled the trucks out and they let me wash them,” Horton said.

After graduating, Horton returned to the Haines City Fire Department in 1997 and has been volunteering for the last 25 years. That’s longer than anyone who is employed there!

He helps around the firehouse and attends all of their community events. He has earned the nickname “Haines City Fire Department Senior Man” with a personalized helmet to match.

“I could’ve cried that day I got this helmet,” Horton said. “It’s something that I wanted to do, to be a firefighter, and physically, I couldn’t do it."

Horton was born premature, weighing less than two pounds.

“The doctors told my mother that I wasn’t going to live. The doctors told my mother I’d never walk and I wouldn’t be able to physically do anything,” Horton said.

Though he doesn't go out and fight fires, he’s blazed a trail for people with disabilities.

“I’m hoping to give hope to many other fire departments to support disabled people. Even though they are physically not able to do the job but just take a little time. Let them hang out. Let them feel like they’re somebody,” he said.

By living out his dream, he’s fueling others to do the same. “Don’t ever let nobody tell you what you can't do and don’t ever give up trying what you love to do,” Horton said.