There is a Firefighter in All of Us

(Photo taken of volunteers at Medina Volunteer Fire Department.)

It is not surprising that when you ask a little boy what he wants to be when he grows up, you get some common answers like a famous sports star, an astronaut, a race car driver, a policeman and you guessed it, a fireman. Not a bad choice, eh? I mean think about it, why wouldn’t a little boy want to be a fireman? It’s the fireman who wears the cool, reflective coat that glows in the dark and a hard hat which allows you to head-butt anything you want yet walk away unhurt.They get to participate in parades and hang out at concerts or football games free of charge.

A fireman plays in water, drives big, shiny trucks with loud sirens and gets to speed past others on busy roadways.

Some carry their dogs to work too and are even allowed to come home late, stinky & dirty from a day out on the town. But most importantly, they get to be a superhero, a person that everyone admires and wants to be around. What a job! What… a…job.

Seriously, after pondering the highlights of the fireman profession, I wasn’t a bit surprised by the answer my 12-year-old son gave at the dinner table one night. “Hey Jude, (yes, I am aware of the song) if you could choose from all of these titles, which one would you like to be most?” After a brief moment of reflection, he responded (in his always so cerebral & introspective way) that the firefighter job would be the most attainable and rewarding position to have.  I paused to consider his answer, and in delightful agreement, I concluded that he is probably right on this one.

Meanwhile, my 9-year-old daughter, having overheard our conversation, was relentlessly tapping on my shoulder to redirect my attention to her utmost innocent suggestion that maybe someday, she would be a brave firefighter. She continued by briefing me on how she would wear a big hat and a shiny coat, hold the powerful water sprayer and drive the pretty, red truck with a puppy beside her to help all of the people who are in trouble. This answer was not unlike the little boys who have the same thoughts running through their minds when you talk about firefighters with them. “Oh me,” I thought, “how could two children of different ages and genders illicit the same response?” I pondered for a moment on the thought of my cute, little blonde, curly-haired daughter behind the wheel of a massive fire truck with our 20 lb labradoodle by her side, all-the-while rushing to a burning building to help assist people in distress. Let’s be honest, who couldn’t resist a smile to that thought?

Then I concluded, this profession has perks that have likely appealed to all of us one time or another. Within minutes, some burning (pun intended) questions came to mind:

  • Is it true that firefighters get kittens out of trees?
  • Do they have nightmares when they sleep?
  • Is there a class on how to jump out of windows?
  • Are they ever afraid to go back to work or do they always want more?

To get to the bottom of these cliché but profoundly essential questions (wink), I had to reach out to someone who knows a lot more about fire extinguishing than I do. My research led me to find a 40 year fire-fighting veteran and chief of a local volunteer fire department in a small town nestled between Nashville and Memphis, TN.

Chief Jeff Rollins of the Medina Fire Department has served his community as Fire Chief for 27 years. He is loved by many. His staff consists of 31 volunteer firefighters and together, they provide service to over 7000 residences.

During my visit, I met some of the volunteers and observed a portion of their mandatory drills & practice. Many of these volunteers had already worked a long day at their full-time gigs, missed out on dinner with their families, or cut out early on their children’s sports activities before reporting to duty that night at 7 pm. Chief Rollins told me that he is a full- time electrician at the local hospital and many of his volunteers also masquerade as full time, paramedics, EMTs, building contractors, security technicians, salesmen, truck drivers and one is an arson investigator.

He is their protector, bonded to them by friendship and a shared interest in helping others.

As I sat and listened to Chief Rollins speak about his long career in firefighting, I was amazed at how he spoke so eloquently about his men and how much their safety means to him. I could tell that he felt connected to every member of his crew. It wasn’t about being their commander and chief that he enjoyed the most. He is their protector, bonded to them by friendship and a shared interest in helping others. Seeing the joy that firefighting brings to Chief Rollins has spilled over to his sons too, both of which serve under his leadership at the department.

Soon, I had come to realize that firefighter’s hearts are still very genuine and sincere about their commitment to serving others. They will get your kitten from a tree if there is time, they do have nightmares of what can go wrong, and no, they typically don’t want to change what they do. They are happy and content. They like their job enough to say that the benefits out-way the risks.

Being a firefighter is more than just community service work to these people, it’s a ticket to life fulfillment and its no wonder why the appeal extends beyond any age, nationality and yes, even gender. These once insightful little boys and girls have grown into full-size fire ninjas, and their joy extends beyond the shiny trucks, loud sirens, and cool adventure wear. Is it safe to say that there is a little firefighter in all of us? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that I certainly support their efforts and am in awe of the ever-so-beloved firemen & women who followed through on their dreams to become a firefighter when they grew up. Thank you for your commitment to your childhood dreams and your dedication to protecting the rest of us. We salute you!

Written by: Jill Taylor, MME CoOwner & Marketing Director