Amy Burton is Pender County’s new fire marshal.
When Amy Burton was in second grade, the local fire chief visited her class for fire safety month. He put his helmet on her head and she got to be the leader. She thought it was the “coolest thing ever that I got to wear that chief’s helmet for the day.” But that was not actually the beginning of her desire to work in firefighting.
Burton went to college to study music. She graduated with a degree from Chowan University in vocal performance. She explains that she did not grow up wanting to be a firefighter, but a family tragedy changed her path.
Losing her father to a heart attack, Burton says she had no clue what was happening when emergency medical services (EMS) showed up. That is when she decided to go to emergency medical technician (EMT) school and joined her local rescue squad in Wyse Fork, outside of Kinston, North Carolina. From there, her new career in emergency management and firefighting was launched.
On May 29, 2023, Burton was promoted to the position of Pender County fire marshal, and she is the first female to fill that role for the Emergency Management Office for Pender County. In fact, fire service is a male-dominated profession and there are very few females serving in the field. Although recognizing the importance of her accomplishments, Burton says, “I never wanted to be in this spot because I am female. I want it to be because I earned it.”
She adds, though, that she is proud to be the first female fire marshal of the fifth-largest county in North Carolina. She sees herself as setting a good example for her nieces and goddaughters.
Burton previously served as the deputy fire marshal in Pender County. Prior to that, she worked for New Hanover Regional Medical Center as well as the Town of Leland Fire and Rescue. She rose to the rank of battalion chief for Leland, from her start as a part-time paramedic that evolved into a full-time position as paramedic and firefighter.
She has also worked for the Wayne County and Jones County EMS.
Primarily, she says, her career in emergency management and fire service came about after losing her father. “I didn’t want to be in the spot again where I didn’t know what was going on,” she says, adding that “the path it has taken me down has been very rewarding.” Saying it is “almost a selfish thing,” she explains that “helping people helps people. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true.”
As to her musical aspirations, Burton says they are now “almost hobbyish.” She has performed in local off-Broadway shows, sung in a bluegrass gospel band and joined community chorus groups. Today, she adds, she mostly sings in her car.
Burton sees her future and the future of Pender County as wide open. She sees the growth in new construction daily in her work in code enforcement and looks forward to being part of a progressive department. She has high praise for Pender County Emergency Management Director Tommy Batson. “He puts us in a place that provides an opportunity to go where we need to go. That speaks volumes for him,” Burton says.
She says she has nothing but good things to say about Pender County and that she hopes to stay here until she retires.
In the meantime, her goals are to continue to be the liaison between the fire departments in Topsail Beach, Surf City, Burgaw and Pender Fire and EMS. In addition, she is focused on continuing to establish “good working relationships with fire departments, citizens, developers and contractors.”
“I don’t expect to get respect without earning it,” Burton says. “It’s all about a balance. I don’t want being female to be my calling card.”
She acknowledges that she is “lucky that I came into an organization that had Tommy Batson. They know they can reach out to him and now they know they can reach out to me.”