By Sgt. Austan R. Owen/5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMay 19, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- The day begins for firefighters at Station 101 as the incoming team relieves the outgoing team after a 48-hour shift involving rescuing accident victims from their cars to sweeping the floors - and everything in between.
One minute the firefighters are pumped full of adrenaline, using the Jaws of Life to pry open the door of a vehicle to extricate an accident victim; eight hours later they are cleaning house and joking around as they wait for the next call. Life as a firefighter, much like that of a Soldier, can be filled with heart-pounding moments followed by hours of downtime.
The firefighters on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have many duties that go along with protecting the community, both on and off the installation.
Whether it is a crash on the highway, a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency, the firefighters on JBLM will respond.
There are seven fire stations on JBLM some have only civilians working their while others have a mix of civilian and military firefighters who cover all of JBLM as well as parts of Interstate 5.
"The stations have mutual aid agreements with the communities around JBLM to support the city firefighters if they need additional firefighters and equipment," said Scott J. Powers, a firefighter at station 101.
Before all of the excitement and adrenaline, the day starts with the basics. The firefighters at Station 101 check their trucks and gear to make sure that everything is in proper working condition, so they are ready to respond to any situation that might occur that day, said Rob M. Horn, a firefighter at station 101. They spend time cleaning up the station and making sure the place is spotless, he said.
The firefighters take time out during the day for job related and physical training, all while answering emergency calls.
"Our firefighters answer around five or six hundred calls a year," Horn said. "It can become a hectic day."
Through all the training and the long hours spent together the team has become a family.
"We all know what the other is thinking, and we are trained in each other's job," he said. "We are all professionals."
Army and Air Force firefighters train hand-in-hand with the civilian firefighters at many of the fire stations around JBLM in preparation for accomplishing their mission overseas.
"This is what we do," said Sgt. Larry Rhodes with the 63rd Ordnance Fire Company assigned to station 105 at McChord Field. "It's a great day when we get to come train with the civilian station."
Rhodes said the training his section receives at the fire stations is invaluable preparation for deployments.
"I just got back from Afghanistan, where we supported four forward operating bases for structure fires and airfield support," Rhodes said. "We respond to emergencies on the airfield, structure side, wild-land firefighting and provide medical support for the JBLM area. Basically, anything you would need a firefighter for."
After a day of training, responding to emergency calls and taking care of their equipment the firefighters at Station 101 take time to eat dinner and harass each other in order to keep their morale up as they prepare for the rest of their 48-hour shift.
Most of the firefighters have a nickname that their teammates have given them like, firefighter Jeremy Housley, also known as "JWOW," Horn said. They play practical jokes on each other and kid around during the down time to help relieve stress and build camaraderie.
For firefighters on JBLM, it's not all work. They also spend time helping the community through charity events like Project Rescue and the Muscular Dystrophy fund raiser, said Powers
"We try to put a lot of time back into the community," he said.
The firefighters on JBLM play many roles in the community. When they aren't cutting doors off cars to help people in a wreck or rescuing wayward children from roof tops they spend time giving back to those they help protect. The firefighters on JBLM are trained, professional and ready to respond regardless of the situation.