NASVHILLE, TN (WSMV) - Mannie Fonseca has given back to the community through his service as a firefighter for the past 44 years.

Every breath Fonseca takes makes the Mid-South safer, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Ever since Fonseca was a kid, there was something about sirens and fire trucks.

"True story. When I was a little, I used to get whipped every time by my mom because she would find me at the fire hall," Fonseca said. "I would sneak out of the house, and she would go pick me up and bring me right back because they would call and say your son is back at the fire hall hanging out, and I was a little tot."

That tot became a teenager who took his first volunteer firefighter job at the age of 15. He returned the favor after a firefighter saved his life as a child when he was trapped in a burning school.

Now, Fonseca has three decades of experience with the Nashville Fire Department.

"I go to Kroger today. And literally, people say thank you, and I don't know who they are," Fonseca said. "Twenty years ago, you helped my mom. Thirty years ago, you saved my dad's life."

News 4 asked Fonseca is it an emotional thing when you think about it.

"Oh yeah. I love doing it. It's exciting. I like the adrenaline," Fonseca said. "But the biggest thing is that you come in, and your with the guys and ladies, and you talk about it, and you tell war stories about the crazy things we've done."

Fonseca has received numerous accolades during his 44 years of service.

"This is from President Bush. He invited me to the White House and gave that to me personally for my volunteer service," Fonseca said. "I didn't ask for it. I didn't look for it. I just got a phone call."

Volunteer service includes starting programs to change the behaviors of children when it comes to fires and serving as the President of the National Association of Hispanic Firefighters.

"But it's not just the Hispanic firefighters. It can be any firefighter," Fonseca said. "We addressed women in the fire service. African Americans in the fire service. Jewish. Muslims."

Despite the numerous communities he's interacted with over the years, the nine lives he's saved, he remains humble.

"Ummm. I'm just Mannie. Just Mannie. That's it."

Fonseca told News 4 he is proud of being involved in the programs in Nashville schools. But, he added that once teachers implemented his research, fires and deaths dropped dramatically across the Mid-State.

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