There's a method to my madness..... the fire service, more so the vollies than elsewhere, are experiencing a severe deficit in new recruits.
It might serve all of us well to know what it is that made you, the Probie, decide to join.
Once you got in...what made you decide to stay on? What is it that makes you show up for drill, for department events.....to become immersed.
I know it's an addiction, I suffer from the same affliction, but explain to the crew what was your defining moment.
Why I joined is another story; I work for an organization that represents the volunteer fire service across NYS. Worse, I'm the lone Training and Education rep, so while visiting hundreds of fire halls across this beautiful state that I call home, I was shamed into joining. I had no real reason not to, in fact, when I was a little kid, I was one of those firetruck junkies who chased apparatus up the street when they were responding to a call. It was Kismet.
Meant to be.
My moment? The very first time I responded to a call. It was a crap call...an automatic alarm at the school, but I got to the station in time to make the truck....and as I sat in the back of 3511, my eyes the size of manhole covers...packing up because "you never know" ....I was hooked. I couldn't get enough and I still can't. The excitement and sense of responsibility hasn't ebbed, and I pray it never does.
I was recruited, a verry good friend of mine that was the luitanet that inspired me to join, before I had always thought it took a collidge degree to become a firefighter. then when he told me ( not for volinteer ) so I joined and loved every moment of it.
I do remember my first call, I was told before we even left the barn that this one might not be a good one to go to my first time out of course my hair stood on end wondering what I got myself into, I didnt know anything about firefighteing and it was a Hazmat call at that but fortunate for me it was a fauls alarm that was called in, and to this day I have strived to be a firefighter to serv and protect.
When I was growing up, the fire house was half a block from our house. It always seemed busy with guys hanging out and laughing, having fun. That was at the time when they were just starting out, building the station, getting organized, doing fundraisers. Those thoughts never left my mind. As I was growing older I always felt like an outsider in most social situations, I turned into a home body, not doing much at all. Two of my younger brothers joined the fire company and seemed to be having fun, getting out and learning. The following year I joined and I haven't looked back. I loved the comraderie, still do, the training, learning, using my brain once in a while. I have been at it going on 25 years, 18 of those as the Chief of Dept. I still have the passion!!
Once I was able to take control of my life and settle down and became more of a stable person I felt it was time to give back to my community. This was the plan right out of High School but I became side tracked. I'm here now and, I am not going anywhere. I am thankful that I am able to help others when they are in need. It also helps when you are invited into the lives of others. The department I am on opened there doors and hearts to me, a perfect stranger, no judgement, no questions. Who would do this? FIREMEN thats who. I have never had so much fun as I do now with all this guys. Sure I razzed from time to time but thats just part of being a probie, don't take it heart just go with flow, you're not going to a probie forever. Besides there will alway be probies long after you're not. Live Strong, Laugh Loud, and Watch out for each other. Best of luck and BE SAFE out there.
My father was a member and my mother was in the ladies aux. They use to take us down to the fire hall on friday nites to visit with the other members. We were told to stay away from the trucks as this was a small hall, the ladder truck was backed in and the up stairs was the bunkroom for the paid driver and there was also a couple of old timeers that bunked. So as years went by and I became of age21 I joined. The company lowered the age from 21 to 18 but I was 19 yrs. old and the first in my company at the lower age to join. I just like to help other people in there time of need. We (vol.) do not run first aid calls that is done by tthe paid members. I did my 5 years and acouple more and got out. But now I have become a State Fire Instructor(about 5yrs) and have gotten back in the keep up the ever upgrading of equipment, and the etc in the fire service.
I remember when I was little seeing my dad leave home and hoping to see him on a truck. But what really sealed the deal for me was family day at the annual county fire school. I was ten years old and I watched as engine company after engine company took their turn putting out a live burn. My dad came over and stood with us afterward and told my mom that he was excited about what he had learned and felt "good tired." I have held on to that feeling of excitment in my work. But it's not the adrenaline rush or the big trucks it's the good tired at the end of the job that still keeps me coming back.
Why did I join. wow, simple question, long answer. I am going to start from the assumption that you are asking about the fire service. it was kind of a progression thing. I started out in a First Aid/ CPR class, that eventually led to EMT-B class. It was there that I was told that most likely small departments would expect that me to fight fire as well as do EMS. At that time all I wanted to do was EMS. Through the on-campus organization I worked with as an EMT, we helped a small FD around a Mt. Pass by supplementing their EMS crews during Ski season. That was my first real contact/involvement with a FD. One of their volunteers pulled me aside one night after a day of calls. He pointed out several things to me a few of which are still very clear in my memory. one of which being that we were there because we 'wanted to be' and he was there because 'he could do the job and someone needed to do it and he was available.' 'what did I want to do with my knowledge and what did I want to learn while I was there?' those aren't direct quotes as I don't remember his exact words but that's the general context that I remember. Anyway, at that FD I got my first taste of working around fire trucks. All I did was help wash them (several times) but it was for me an incredible time of bonding and tons of fun.
So, fast forward about 2 years. I'm graduated from college with a degree I don't know what to really do with and certifications I don't want to lose. So, I decided to apply as a volunteer with my local FD and here I am. Of course just being an EMT wasn't going to work for them so I worked my way through the district recruit school. graduated there with FF1 structure, and ff2 wildland plus some Haz Mat and other stuff. Been here for just over a year and am really enjoying it. Did I mention that once I got into firefighting I was hooked? it's like "didn't want it, didn't want it, had to do it...now I love it" kind of things
What makes me show up for drill etc. Well, it's the people. The ones I work with and the ones I work for. I'm one of the few my neighbors count on to come help them in their time of need. In acceptance of that trust, I need to be the best trained FF/EMT I can be. Just as my education didn't end when I walked down the isle at my college graduation, my fire training and learning didn't end when I finished recruit school. I just finished a phase. One of the unique things about my situation in this FD due to where I live (and I offered) is that I that I am a member of two fire stations. There are 10 in the entire district. My primary station being the district's newest and not yet completed one. In fact almost the entire station of firefighters went through recruit together and that was before the ground had been broken for the new building. I live the farthest from either of the stations I respond to so a lot of the time I don't actually get out on the first/only truck for a call. But then there are the calls where I'm the first one there. So if the pager goes off for one of my calls I will be at the station if I'm in the area. I might be the 5 person on standby but I'm there. So, yeah I guess it really all comes down to the people. That's why I show up week after week.
My defining moment. I don't think there's just one.
1. My first wildland fire that turned into a 38 hour day on 4 hours sleep (including regular work before and after) doing structure protection and protecting the fire origination point.
1. My first house fire. helping to retrieve valuables while still putting out the fire. I'm not doing overhaul again without a mask on at least. before overhaul though it was me with a hose spraying water wherever the command officer wanted it. It was so cool.
1. the ladder work we did at station training the evening after the house fire. I was so tired I didn't think I could hold the ladder right and said as much to my captain (I didn't think he'd heard me though). I managed to get through the whole exercise and later asked my captain if he'd heard me. his response was "I heard you, but you were doing just fine"
1. my first SCBA work test. I had a head cold and thought for sure I wasn't going to make it though, but I did. Much thanks to the instructor/evaluators encouragement.
I hope I haven't bored you all to tears. but I hope you have learned a little about me along the way.
That wasn't boring in the least Patience , thanks for sharing. (Why did that just sound like an affirmation during a Fireholics meeting? "My name is Mary Ellen, and I'm a fireholic")
Here's the funny thing about the "volunteer" fire service... After about a month, once I got settled in, I stopped thinking about it as a volunteer effort.
I treat it the same way as I treat my job. I came to that realization the other day when I was asked to join some friends for a weekend of fun and festivities in Vermont...I looked at my day planner and immediately responded, "Oh, I can't. I have OSHA training that day". And in my mind, that was that. It wasn't, for me, something I could blow off because something more fun came along (and god knows almost anything is more fun than Blood Borne Pathogens).
The same applies to calls, department hosted events and fundraisers, parades, drills, and requests for help from other departments. If it's on the department calendar, it's on MY calendar, and I block out that time slot for it, same as I do for my day job. When the tones drop, as long as I'm within responding time of the page, I go. I've run out of the mall, standing in line at the grocery store, dinner parties, one date (funny, I didn't get asked out again after that one)---have left dinner half-cooked and jumped out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair. I treat it like my job, because that's what I signed up to do.
It's personal accountability( thanks Ted) and responsiblity. I would no sooner blow off a call than I would blow off a day at work because I didn't "feel like it". It shouldn't work that way, and doesn't work that way for me.
It doesn't leave me much in the way of free time (as I tell my friends, I'm going to be the old lady living by herself in the woods with 17 cats and a shotgun for company, yelling at the neighborhood kids to "git off mah proppity") but I love it, and do it gladly.
just another couple side notes. in accepting the opportunity to run calls out of two stations I also got a '20' pager. Unlike the pagers most everybody else has that only page them for their station calls, I get a page for everything in the district. on occasion it can drive me batty just because it's going off a lot, and/or it's not my stations. though it is interesting to know what is going on in the rest of the district.