Johnny McKinley, 54, died while fighting a fire in Pine Hill, Alabama Thursday, Jan. 25. He was a 19-year member of the Pine Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire in an abandoned building was called in at 7:52 p.m. Paige Hicks, wife of Chief Joe Hicks Jr., said the fire was knocked down quickly and McKinley was stricken on the scene shortly thereafter. Hicks called for an ambulance. Paige Hicks and two other paramedics provided care at the scene.

Knights Ambulance of Thomasville transported McKinley to Thomasville Infirmary where he was pronounced dead.

A suspect has been charged with arson. In his attempt to get warm, he started a fire that got out of hand in the empty building.

Paige Hicks said McKinley was a longtime resident of Pine Hill where he was a self-employed carpenter and contractor. "He would just stop what he was doing and go to the fire. He was always there first every time," Paige Hicks said.

McKinley was married with three children, a ten-year-old daughter still at home. Paige Hicks said he had probably done something for everyone in town. "Everybody depended on him. He did excellent work. He was always doing something around the station," she said.

McKinley was a Vietnam veteran and belonged to the Nuthin New Car Club where he enjoyed fixing up antique cars.

Pine Hill is located in the southwestern part of the state. The department has 20 members and operates a rescue truck, tanker and two engines.