This post is about why I am a firefighter. This is also my submission to the first episode of the First Due Blog Carnival. I have put off this post as long as possible because I am worried that I will not give proper credence to a topic which really envelopes a large part of my life. So here goes…
First off I would like to say that I am one of those “Run to the Curb” kids. As far back as I can remember, I always turned my neck to watch fire trucks when we drove by. I also ran to the curb to see the fire trucks when they drove by. The trucks and the firemen were larger than life. My childhood was very innocent and I only hope that my children are growing up in a similar World even if us adults know very different.
There I was at the ripe old age of 17. My testing with the high school counselor said that I should be a cop…ugh. The thought of being a cop was intriguing, but much like some people cannot fathom the idea of running into a burning building, I cannot fathom being shot at or worst of all the potential of taking another life in self defense.
I needed to find something different.
The Family Business
My dad was in sales and one of the finest in his field, he got his start at the same company his father had worked for. It was not a family owned company, but the two had a lot to do with the success of the company.
I am not sure what my mothers father did, he died when I was about 3. I remember him, but only vaguely.
My other grandfather (3rd if you are counting and technically step-grandfather but always considered just a grandfather) worked on crews that built many of the interstates we enjoy today throughout Ohio and West Virginia.
I didn’t have an idea of what the heck I was going to grow up and be, yet I was at the point where I needed to figure it out.
My father was a volunteer when he was in his early twenties, he ran the squad too. He volunteered in the Canton, Ohio area as well as the Hamilton County, Ohio area. Neither of the Volly houses are around anymore. Maybe it WAS in my blood but I didn’t know it yet.
The Best Decision Ever
I put the application in for my local VFD after being prompted by a friend and firefighter Eric Campbell. He had asked every couple of months for about a year if I was interested. I often rode with Eric to school and enjoyed his company. I would one of many of my friends to join the VFD from my high school. In total it was probably about a dozen of us. Most of us lived in the same neighborhood.
I didn’t ask my parents; I told them about the application. My mom didn’t know what to think. Hell, I didn’t even fully realize what I was doing….
Next to marrying my wife and having two beautiful children, putting that application in was one of the best decisions of my life.
Once being voted in as a volunteer and passing firefighter I and II I was off to the races. I would later pretty much live at the station for about two years while working and going to college for my associates degree.
I volunteered at a combination station in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Midlothian VFD #5. I stop by occasionally, but rarely bump into anyone I know. I learned so much from those guys; the volunteers and the career guys. In short…I grew up.
In 1999 I was hired by my current department (paid urban department) and have been there ever since. I was promoted to Lt. in 2004 and still hold that rank.
I maintain that my years on my vollie department were some of the best of my life. Truth be told that going from a vollie to a paid guy is a huge change in a firefighters life. The two roles are so very different outside of running calls.
That is how I became a firefighter…Now for why I am a firefighter
I am a firefighter because…
After finding my love for firefighting as a volunteer, I realized that there would be nothing better than to do it for a living. Those nights at the firehouse kicking back, having fun, playing pranks, and being one of the guys was it. Fighting the occasional fire was an adrenaline rush. We didn’t run too much EMS and we didn’t have an ambulance, but I enjoyed the EMS side of things too.
I am very mechanically inclined. I don’t know farming, automotive repair, or HVAC but I can fix almost anything if I put my mind to it. I usually only ask for help when all else is lost. I am a problem solver and am very outgoing. What more could any citizen ask for in a firefighter?
Nothing in this job makes me feel better than being able to show up at someones house and fix their problem. After all, people call us at their darkest hour…some of those end up being our shining moments depending on the extent of the “emergency”.
I am a firefighter because I love the tradition and the brotherhood. Furthermore, I understand the brotherhood and try to live by it. I love the adrenaline rush of going in a fire and providing life saving measures on an EMS call. I love seeing the “Run to the Curb” kids and I always wave even if they don’t wave back. I want to be that firefighter that I used to wave to as a child.
I want to help people, and like most firefighters I NEED to help people. It makes me feel all tingly inside.
When the tones hit, I still get on the truck as quick as possible. Sure, I have changed since I was a snotty nosed rookie and now am just a snotty nosed 10 year guy.
I get excited when people come by the station to say hi, show their kids around, or take a tour. It pleases me that people want to see what I do and that they are interested.
I am blessed because I do what I love. I cannot imagine being stuck in an office pushing a pencil around and hating to go to work every day.
That is why I am a firefighter!
Recruit Class 15 (1999) From L-R Kneeling: Captain Phil Dillon, Todd Reighley, Beth Norwood Joyner, Betty McBride, B.T. Butler, Rhett Fleitz (Me), Kelcey Branch, Barry Kincer, BC Roger Manuel Standing: Captain R.T. "Skippy" Flora, ?, Captain Chris Trussler, Jeremy Bennington, Doug Hurd, William "Sport" Hayden, Travis Simmons, Mac Craft, Dennis Duncan, Charles Williams, Kevin Bradbury, and 1st Lt. Brian Riddle. The picture is from our final burn.
In the picture above, I gave the current rank to the instructors of the day. As for the recruits, many are ranking officers by now. Others have come and gone since our graduation in 1999, some off to other departments, other jobs, and even one has found himself behind bars for many years to come.
One thing is for sure, firefighting attracts all types and kinds of people…but not all of them can hack it. Of the 15 who began our class, 9 have maintained and become great firefighters.