On Being a Firefighter

I recently moved out of my hometown where I had served on the local fire department for the last four and a half years. It was a small department located just outside of a village of about 400. Our coverage area was 54 square miles (one and a half townships), plus providing aid to other area departments on a regular basis. It was a challenging experience, but one that prompted a lot of personal growth. I do feel like I gained more than I gave. If you live in a small town, are ambitious, can spare the time, and feel like you can handle the potential stresses of it, your local department probably needs you. So this is a collection of my thoughts about the experience, in no particular order:

– I became more safety conscious. Car accidents and house fires have a way of making you notice potential hazards.

– I became a more confident driver. This is through the simple necessity of becoming competent at handling the large vehicles used in the fire service.

– Every house I see, I think about how I would set up everything if I were to arrive first on scene and had to take command.

– I have a much higher threshold for stress than I used to. A bad car accident is much worse than anything that could happen at the office. Things that people call 911 for have a way of shocking your perspective back to reality.

– I am more thankful for an uninterrupted, full night’s sleep than I used to be.

– No matter how inconvenient a time it is for the pager to go off, I realize that somebody is having a worse day than me, otherwise, they wouldn’t be calling. Again, perspective.

– I still put my clothes in a spot where they are easy to pick up and put on when I go to bed at night. Every second saved is valuable.

-While the job could be stressful at times, there is an adrenaline-rush aspect of it that is hard to beat.

– Whenever I catch a whiff of either diesel exhaust or diesel fuel, I instantly think of the fire department.

– The sense of camaraderie is top-notch. A couple weeks ago, I took an early-morning trip the grocery store, and because of some recent storm damage there were several utility company trucks idling in the parking lot, and it made me a little misty-eyed. It was because the sight and sound of those trucks in the predawn light reminded me of so many late night and early morning fire scenes that I had been on.

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