Fire Apparatus Engineer Nickey Wells is retiring from the Sandy Springs Fire Department. (SSFD)

Fire Apparatus Engineer Nickey Wells retirement from the Sandy Springs Fire Department comes after spending his entire 27-year career at the same fire station at 1425 Spalding Drive.

Before he became a firefighter, he served in the military starting in 1986 in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman. Next, he joined the Marine Corps. Once he got out of the service, he worked delivering money by driving armored trucks for Wells Fargo.

His neighbor, a great friend who was a firefighter, convinced him to apply with the Fulton County Fire Department in September 1996. He was hired a month later.

The first full year was filled with probationary training where Wells said he learned the ropes and how the fire department operated. He began earning certifications such as rope training, hazmat tech certification, and learning how to drive a fire truck.

“I loved the career, I love the station. I like the station because we get a mix of everything,” he said.

When Sandy Springs incorporated, Wells and other Fulton firefighters working in the area decided to join the new’s new fire department. He remained at the Spalding Drive station when Fulton handed over the building to Sandy Springs.

“I’ve been here since 1996 and enjoyed every minute and day of it. I’m going to miss it, you know, but I enjoyed it,” Wells said.

Wells had a few exciting calls during his career, including a plane crash on Georgia 400, an explosion at an apartment fire that blew him five feet back, and being chased by a Rottweiler on one call.

Wells would tell a younger person considering a career as a firefighter to decide if it’s what they really want to do because the job is not for everyone. Firefighters will see and do things they’d never think would be done in their life, he said

Firefighters spend a third of their lives at the fire station. If they are married, they’d better talk to their significant other about how they will deal with it, he said.

“Learn the smart way of doing things. Not the easy way, but the smart way,” Wells said.

Now that he’s retiring, Wells plans to decompress for a bit, do some traveling with his wife, and get around to some overdue home improvements.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.