General Category => Exams / Jobs => Topic started by: nfd2004 on February 08, 2016, 01:11:35 PM

Title: First day "On the Job"
Post by: nfd2004 on February 08, 2016, 01:11:35 PM
  I had taken six test to become a career firefighter. The economy was not good at the time and it was the first time that I had ever heard of cities closing fire companies. Even during the Great Depression, that wasn't done. I remember one city where I took the test having over 2,000 people show up for the written with about 20 openings.

 Prior to becoming a firefighter, I had what I considered to be a very good job as a Letter Carrier. But I really just wanted to be a firefighter. Finally that lucky day came in May, 1975. In a small city that I had only been to for the written test, medical and interview. It really wasn't where I had planned to be a firefighter. But it worked out great for me.

 Things have certainly changed since that first day I walked into the firehouse at 0700 hours on that beautiful spring morning. Here is my story and I would do it all over again if I could.

  That old historic firehouse was built back in the 1800s. A huge three story brick building that once had a hay loft for the days of the horses that pulled the steamers. When I got there, one of the guys introduced me to the captain. He would be my boss for the next few years. He told me where to ride on the truck and he brought me to a pile of old gear. He said pick out what fits and its yours. Of course, nothing really fit but I just made the best of what there was. Then he brought me upstairs to the kitchen where he introduced me to the guys. After a pretty heavy verbal beating from a bunch of strangers who I would be working with, he told the driver of that engine to bring me down and show me where things were on the rig.

  I had NO formal training. There was no Probie School where I would learn the very basics of doing the job. I guess when I went for the interview with the Chief of Department, my five prior years as a volunteer firefighter was enough. I was very lucky to be able to come from a volunteer department that was very good about training. Because it was all "On the Job" when I walked into this firehouse. Today things are so much different. Any new Probie is required to attend a 16 week fulltime probie school. In addition, after that they usually are assigned to ride for several shifts as a extra man.

  After the driver went over some of the basics with me on the rig, I had the routine chores to do. There was also a 1963 Seagrave tiller ladder truck and a rescue truck similar to the FDNY EMS units of today. Both of those rigs operated with only two guys on each. The engine I was on had 3, the captain, the driver and myself. There were also three other firehouses. Each with an engine and two guys assigned. They all reminded me of the older firehouses of the FDNY. Old brick buildings with red doors. Being that I was a buff of the FDNY, I kind of liked that.

  This was an old New England city. With it's old mill factory buildings, some old 3 and 4 story brick apartment buildings and some old private dwellings and Queen Ann type frames. During this period of time, you could ride though basically any ghetto area of NYC and see burned out buildings. The buildings here were not burned out like that. They were all occupied by many people who worked in the nearby mills or some of the larger factories outside this city.

  Around lunch time I was given a list of groceries by one of the guys and told to pick this up at Jakes. I had no idea where Jakes was. With that came another verbal beating. I had been only the second person hired from outside the city. And those guys were not exactly too happy that I took a job away from some of their friends. How is this guy (me) supposed to drive a fire truck and know where he's going. Jakes turned out to be just one block up the street. I got the groceries and I almost didn't want to go back. I thought maybe I made a mistake giving up that letter carrier job I had.

  Just after lunch we get a verbal alarm. Somebody came into the firehouse to report an incident. I'm thinking, okay this is what I waited for. I'm going to roll through the streets and do my thing. But when we pull out, no siren, no lights, what's going on ? It is a verbal for a car leaking gas just up the street from Jakes Store. Things just aren't going as planned at all. So I get off the rig and the captain tells me to grab the booster line and flush it away. Yes, it's true. Very hard to believe today, but that's how we did it.

  My shift ended at 1700 hours. It was time to go back to my small room that I had rented at the local YMCA. I needed to be a city resident and that made it legal. The next day I would do it all over again. We worked three day shifts 0700 - 1700 hours, followed by three days off. Come back for three night shifts followed by three days off again. I don't remember the calls I had the other day shifts, but when I came back on nights, my second night on was when I got my chance to do what I wanted to do. Somebody had pulled the fire alarm box on the corner, and when we got there, "first due", we had a 2 1/2 vacant frame with a lot of fire showing. I did the best I could. I tried to show these guys that I was willing to work. When it was all over and we got back to the firehouse, cleaned up, and then had some coffee, the guys told me; "You did okay kid - I think you'll do". Those were the best words I heard since I started. I thought about that for weeks. Just maybe it will work out okay.

  Well, for me it did work out. I started a whole new life. Made lifetime friends with these guys I worked with. One retired captain I worked with is still doing well. I see him at our Christmas Party and he told me he is 91 years old. What a great boss he was. We were all very lucky and we never lost any firefighters during that time. About ten years before I started, four members were killed in an explosion. Of the six guys that were there, only two survived. One of those survivors is still around and he also attends our yearly Christmas Party. I think he is 87 years old. I always try to thank them for all they taught me. There were others too.

  My last official day on the job was Christmas Day, 2003. At 1700 hours my relief came in and I was all done. It wasn't easy for me at all. For weeks I actually felt like I had just lost my best friend. I was blessed to be a firefighter. As a firefighter, you work under some of the worst and most dangerous conditions anybody must face. Yet, I think if you asked most guys they would probably tell you "there's just no other job like it". And if they could, they would probably do it all over again.

  Maybe you choose a career as a police officer, military, a paramedic, emt, dispatcher, nurse, utilities, sanitation, doctor, teacher. Maybe you started your own business etc. Whatever it was, it played a part in our society. Somebody needed your services. Maybe a few of us might be interested in hearing about that too.
Title: Re: First day "On the Job"
Post by: vbcapt on March 02, 2016, 08:57:15 PM
Around September of 1987 my 4 years in the US Navy were almost over. I pondered with re-enlisting and going "career" or letting my enlistment end and apply for the Va Beach Fire Dept. It was a difficult decision for me since I really loved the Navy and enjoyed going to sea for months on end. Along with that, I had several family members in the fire service and I grew up around firehouses since age 4. I rolled the dice and started the application process in the VBFD. While going through the lengthy hiring process I worked at several jobs to earn cash in order to hold me over, and to party now & then. Around March of 1988 I received a notice to report to the Fire Training Center at 0800, April 1st 1988. Yes, I thought it was an April Fool's joke too and after confirming it wasn't, I was extremely relieved.

After 17 weeks of Probie school my first assignment was Engine 3 which was a relatively busy Engine for Va Beach. I arrived early, saw the 1980 Seagrave I would be riding and met my first Captain. His name was Ronnie Foster and he was newly promoted so, I think he was just as nervous as I was. I seemed to fit in well with everyone on my tour however, many of the members were Va Beach natives.....and I wasn't. There was a strange click amongst the Dept. that I didn't go for nor could I figure out and many of them had a hard time figuring me out since I was from New Jersey. I was raised in a super hard working family that wasn't afraid to speak up to, friend or stranger.

Over the next 15 years there were other assignments Engine 20, Engine 16/Ladder 16, Engine 7, Union President for 7 years (94-01) and then I was transferred to Engine 8 as an acting Captain and I was like oh crap....promotion is right around the corner. This happened while I was in Paramedic school which was already enough piled on. So, after a few months acting the phone call came from the Chief of Dept. saying he was promoting me. Now it was off to Resource Management the next day for new uniforms and to exchange badges/hardware. When we had our promotion ceremony I asked my wife if she wouldn't mind if I had Ronnie Foster my first Capt. pin my badge on. She was all for it and thought it was a great idea.  Capt. Ronnie was retired (maybe a little too soon) and I felt it would be awesome for your first Capt. to be a big part of that special day. Well, when that day came and Capt. Ronnie pinned that badge on me I could see it in his eyes and his smile how happy he was that I included him in that special day.  After about 6 years at Engine 8 I was transferred to Engine 4 (yes, our Dept. moves people around a lot) where I remain today.

April 1st 2016 which will make 28 years with maybe 2-5 years to go and I can still say that the fire service is still the best job in the world. Yes, the politicians still don't get it sometimes along with some others but, we still go on and do what we do best.... no matter what !
Title: Re: First day "On the Job"
Post by: nfd2004 on March 02, 2016, 10:29:11 PM
 Deano, aka vbcapt, that's a great story. I sure enjoyed reading it.

 Come on up and visit us again. Got a couple of great guys who would probably like to meet you. And it's not just firefighters. Even a few neighbors of yours come up from Va. A couple of great places to hang out too. And I'm not talking White Castle or Micky Ds.

 As for those politicians, they aren't much different in Virginia, New York, or here in Connecticut. They haven't a clue of what it's really all about. You ought to see the mess the mayor started up in Providence, R.I.