Submitted by his Wife
Michael French known to his family as ‘Mikey’ but around the station had gotten the nickname ‘Frenchie’ was born on February 14‚ 1980 to his mother Diane French and Father Mike Gragg. Mikey had a passion for firefighting obvious even as a child dressing up in his gear and hanging around the station with his father and uncle. He began firefighting as a volunteer with Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department at the age of 14. His Mother recalls when his sisters were excited to get their driver’s license because they could drive around with their friends and hang out at the mall; Mikey was excited to get his so he could drive a fire truck!
As soon as he was 18 he started his fire career at Old Fort Fire Department. Before finding his home at the City Of Charleston Fire Department he also worked for Summerville Fire and Rescue and St. Andrews Fire Department. Chief Rusty Thomas remembers the day he graduated from rookie school‚ Saying ‘It was the best day of Mikey French’s entire life’. It took Mikey just one year to get promoted to Assistant Engineer‚ a job most firefighters wait 2 or 3 years to get.
Mikey continued volunteering at whatever fire department he lived near. In 2005 he joined Pine Ridge Fire Department‚ and in just two short years he had rose to the rank of Captain. ‘Frenchie had probably been at every fire department in Berkeley County because no matter where he went he was in the fire service and it was just in him and something he had to do.’ said fire Chief Nicky Sweatman.
Mikey also loved his children‚ never entering the fire scene without a picture of his six year old daughter Kyla‚ which was tucked inside his helmet as if she was looking over him. He was a prankster‚ who loved to make people laugh‚ but was very serious when it came to fighting fire. When he wasn’t fighting fires he enjoyed being outdoors! His passion for the outdoors was shared by his oldest nephew Kyle‚ who often joined him while fishing and hunting. A true country boy!
Mikey‚ along with eight other heroes‚ left us while fighting a fire at the Sofa Super Store in West Ashley‚ South Carolina. He was assigned to Station Sixteen but detailed to ladder five on the day of the fire. Mikey is survived by his wife Donna French‚ his Children Kyla Anne Nicole(6) and Aidan Michael Jennings(2)‚ his mother Diane French‚ two sisters Brandi Clark and Jean Dangerfield‚ two brother-in-laws‚ three nephews‚ a niece and many‚ many close friends. He is remembered as a true hero to all‚ that has passed on his passion of firefighting to his nephews Kyle and Lil’ E.
Submitted by his Mother
‘Frenchie’ to the Department but Mikey to his family and non-department friends. He was born on Valentine’s Day and a sweetheart from the beginning. He was laid back‚ never in a hurry‚ rarely got excited‚ but always busy. I don’t think he ever stopped.
He loved his family‚ he enjoyed the outdoors‚ camping‚ fishing‚ hunting‚ boating or just sitting around a fire‚ but his passion – even as a toddler – was firefighting. I have a photo of him on his first fishing trip (around 3 yrs old) wearing a ‘real helmet and bunker coat’ holding a fishing pole in his hand.
He joined the police cadets at age 12 because he couldn’t join the fire department until he was age 14. Police respond to fire calls and that was where he really wanted to be. On his 14th birthday he became a volunteer for Moncks Corner Rural FD. He wasn’t old enough to drive so we got a red-light for my car and I drove him to fire calls.
I signed waivers for Mikey to take classes and by age 18 he had more certifications than a lot of seasoned firefighters. His superiors often told me they’d rather have Mikey at their back than people who had been in the service for years. Many times they would hear a voice behind them saying ‘you sure you want to do that?’ They said firefighting was instinct with him.
In 14 years Mikey was a member of 13 fire departments‚ 4 of those were career and the rest as a volunteer. He found a fire department wherever he went‚ sometimes getting lucky enough to live an equal distance from two departments.
Mikey was always the prankster. I remember back in his early teen days when he put grape Kool-Aid powder in the shower head knowing his sister was getting ready to shower. My only advice to him was ‘run – I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back.’
He was an idol not only to his children but also to his niece and nephews. There was nobody like Uncle Mikey. Fun‚ funny Uncle Mikey. His daughter was his second passion. He already has her more comfortable in an air pack and on a truck than some adults. He loved taking her and the other children on the fire truck on Christmas Eve to deliver toys around the community. He had all kinds of plans for his son. Mikey said he’d have him chopping wood and doing other male things outdoors before he was 2. His son turned 2 this year; he’ll have to learn that stuff from friends his dad left behind.
Mikey was an outstanding firefighter‚ son‚ father‚ husband‚ brother‚ uncle and friend – a legacy that will be hard to match.
Submitted by his Sister
Michael ‘Frenchie’ French
Charleston Fire Department – South Carolina
Date of Death:June 18‚ 2007
Michael ‘Frenchie’ French (known to his family as Mikey) was an assistant engineer with City of Charleston Fire Department at engine 16 for a year and a half. He was detailed to ladder on June 18‚ 2007. Mikey was killed while fighting an interior fire at the Sofa Super Store. That killed 8 other Charleston City firefighters. Mikey was 27 years old.
Mikey began his career as a volunteer fireman with Moncks Corner Rural Fire Department at the age of fourteen. His passion for firefighting started at a young age‚ when Mikey would watch his father Mike (firefighter for St. Andrews) work around the station at Eadytown Volunteer Fire Department. After reaching the age of eighteen‚ he became a fireman first for Old Fort Fire Department‚ then to the Summerville Fire Department‚ and then the St. Andrews Fire Department. He was currently serving as the captain to the Pine Ridge Fire Department and was employed as assistant engineer for the City of Charleston Fire Department.
Mikey was known as a prankster with a passion for fighting fire and good ‘ole boy who knew the back roads‚ enjoyed hanging out on the river‚ fishing‚ hunting and his family and friends. He was a real go-getter. He would never let you quit. He wouldn’t let you slow down. He wouldn’t let you give up. He took firefighting serious and to heart. Mikey had probably been at every fire department in Berkeley County because no matter where he went he was in the fire service and it was just in him and something he had to do.
Surviving are‚ his wife‚ Donna French; his mother‚ Diane French; a daughter Kyla French; a son‚ Aidan French; and two sisters Brandi Clark and Jean Dangerfield.
Submitted by his Sister
My brother was with the City of Charleston Fire Department for 1 and 1/2 years. He truly loved what he did from the bottom of his heart. We both shared the same passion to help others in our community. I am one of the 911 dispatchers for the local volunteer Fire Department that Mikey served for. Our schedules were the same every year with our family’s having to arrange holidays and family days around us.
My family shared many interests with Mikey. We always went to turkey shoots together‚ had back yard bon fires and we loved to go camping. My 13 year old son Kyle shares his uncle Mikey’s passion for Firefighting‚ hunting‚ fishing and being a prankster.
Mikey‚ Jean and I would go to our uncle’s house and we would race to see who would get there first. Me and Jean would be in one car and Mikey and one of his friends in another. Me and Jean would usually beat him because we would take the dirt roads because Mikey wasn’t going to mess his truck up going down those roads. But we always had fun doing that kinda stuff.
He was always picking on Kelsi‚ my 9 year old. None of this will ever be the same without him.
We love you bubba and miss you…