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Pieces of Eight

Amanda Johnson of Health and Human Performance turns out in full gear for fires and football. For fires, she brings along her camera. In support of ECU football, she sports a Pee Dee the Pirate tattoo on her left foot. (Photo by Judy Currin)

Putting her Best Foot Forward For Fire and Football

In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff members recognizes Amanda Johnson.

By Judy Currin

Amanda Johnson does not fight fires. She photographs them. Johnson is a graduate student in the department of Health Education and Promotion and the contracts and grants manager for the College of Health and Human Performance.

A 2002 ECU graduate with a B.S. in hospitality management, Johnson expects to receive her master’s in environmental health and safety in three years.

Even with her busy schedule on campus, Johnson spends most of her weekends as a volunteer photographer for the Eastern Pines Volunteer Fire - Rescue Department.

“I kind of fell into it three years ago,” Johnson said. “My fiancé, Nick Pantelidis, is a lieutenant on the fire and rescue squads.” (Nick is also an ECU staff member, with ITCS.) “I saw how involved and dedicated Nick was and wanted to help out,” Johnson said.

A self-taught photographer, Johnson has honed her skills over the years. Her equipment consists of a Fuji digital 5.1 mega pixel and a Nikon SLR 35mm that allows her to change lenses when necessary.

“I have my own set of “turn-out” gear,” Johnson said. “The gear consists of a pair of bunker pants and a jacket worn for fire protection.” She always wears a helmet and heavy gloves to protect her hands from glass. While she generally maintains a position near the burning structure or close to one of the trucks, she stays clear of the firefighters and their water streams.

“I have to stay focused,” Johnson said. “You’re dealing with flames, smoke, radiant heat, breaking glass and falling objects.”

“I don’t want to interfere with the service the firefighters are providing,” she said.

The pictures she takes of the burning structures are used as tools for training and safety purposes. “The information the photos provide for fire and rescue is invaluable, especially if anything goes wrong,” Johnson said.

While Johnson was observing a Pitt County controlled fire training session, one of the firemen was burned. The county used the video and multiple photos she had taken of the incident to find out what went wrong and why.

The adrenaline rush Johnson experiences when responding to calls is a combination of excitement and anxiety.

“When the call is dispatched, we are only given a brief description and location,” Johnson said. “We never know exactly what we will be dealing with until we arrive on the scene.”

She acknowledges feeling nervous and shaken when confronted with the most serious situations. At times her emotions overwhelm her.

“I feel the pain of the very people we are there to help,” Johnson said. “I have not learned to distance myself from the emotions.”

As dedicated as she is to the fire department, Johnson said the one event that renders her unavailable is an ECU football game. “I love ECU football,” Johnson said.

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at