Day in the life: Firefighters prepare for worst, hope for best
January 23, 2014
(Editor's note: This is part of a continuing series looking at different jobs and the people who carry out the mission at Fort Rucker. Readers who have ideas for jobs or people to be highlighted in the series can send an email to jhughes at armyflier.com for the staff to consider.)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 23, 2014) -- Some men and women face firefights and some literally fight fires, but one man whose day begins and ends with thoughts that he might have to face smoke and flames at any minute, says that's what gets his blood pumping the most.
Scott Reid's day begins with a shower and morning chores, but by 7 a.m. he and fellow Fort Rucker firefighters are going non-stop preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
"At 7 a.m. we report next to our gear, and we are briefed on the day before and what the plan of action for the day is. After all our radio and equipment checks it is breakfast until 8:30," he said.
Reid knew he wanted to help people who couldn't help themselves, and immediately after he started fighting fires in 2004 he fell in love with it.
"It is such an adrenaline rush and it is really fun. You get paid to play with million-dollar equipment," he said. "But the most challenging thing and definitely the most stressful part is being away from my Family. I don't think any of us really think about the danger of our job because we enjoy it so much, but the schedule is sometimes really hard on our Families."
Fort Rucker firefighters are on shift for 48 hours and off for 72. If overtime is required firefighters could be on shift for three straight days. But after three shifts firefighters are on for 48 hours and off for 48 hours.
Firefighters out at the stage fields are on duty for 24 hours and then off for 24.
All the firefighters on post are DOD civilians, and although Reid calls Hartford, Ala., home, he said that most of the firefighters consider Station No. 1 on Andrews Avenue home, as well.
"We have to separate home from here. When I step through these doors I am a firefighter, and when I go home, I am still a firefighter, but I am a father and a husband first. I think that's how most approach it," he said.
Station No. 1 typically responds to seven calls a day, and Reid said that although many of them are false alarms they treat each situation as if lives hang in the balance.
"You never know what you are going to see on the job while training," he said. "A few weeks ago, we had a fireman have to ask a Soldier to vacate his room so we could turn off the fire alarm that was going off. The only problem was the Soldier answered the door naked."
The firefighters train from breakfast to dinner each night, with a three-hour break for physical fitness and lunch, which most bring from home because big meals are typically eaten together on the weekends.
Training could be anything from classroom lectures on emergency medical services or hands-on training where firefighters go through scenarios in housing or off Dustoff Street where their training grounds are.
"After dinner, we are on our own schedules as long as we stay at the firehouse to be ready for calls to come in," he said. "The tones like to go off around 3 a.m., every morning, but if there is a call during in-field training one truck is always ready to go at that second."
While on shift the firefighters live at the fire station. At Hanchey Army Heliport and Knox Army Heliport firefighters all live in one large room, but there are dividers.
At Shell Army Heliport, Cairns Army Airfield, and the central fire station, the firemen have 9x10 individual rooms that have a twin bed, a nightstand, a television and a locker.
Reid said that although the job can be stressful, having a cause really gives purpose to the job.
"I think that we are sorta like an insurance policy," he said. "People know that if something happens that we are coming and can rely on us to come help them. Most people feel safer and more secure that we are around."
Post firefighters are required to complete many types of drills and certifications every year, some of the drills are aircraft emergency exit and escape drills, hazmat drills and live fire drills.
Many are also certified as emergency medical technicians, paramedics, hazmat technicians, confined space and high angle certified, and now there is talk of some becoming swift water rescue certified, said Reid.
So whether it be educating the public on stove safety or pulling a student pilot from a downed aircraft, Fort Rucker firefighters may not be running toward a firefight, but they are there for people who need help when things get hot.