by Molly Bandelli and Rowan Oberman
If you see a fire and it don’t look good, who ya gonna call? Firefighters, of course.
When visiting downtown for a day, Hi’s Eye stopped by the North Avenue fire station to see what a typical day is like for first responders.
Like other jobs, the eight firefighters on call at the North Avenue fire station arrive at work everyday at 7:30 a.m., but that’s where the similarities end
For starters, instead of working an 8-hour day, 5-days-a-week, these firefighters are working a full 24-hour shift, 2-days-a-week. As each day begins, nobody has any idea what their day will entail; there is no routine in the life of a firefighter. Westfield Fire Department Chief Mr. David Kelly said, “You never know what is in store for you when you walk through the back door of the fire house…[no day] is ever the same.”
For this reason, it is imperative to always be alert. Battalion Chief Mr. Tim Brennan said, “We are constantly trying to keep our minds busy with anything, like learning street names, trying to figure out hydrants, all kind of facets of the job that we need to know. We really try to stay as sharp as we can.”
Many spend time keeping themselves awake, while others take time to rest. Brennan said, “After 11 hours on shift, you are allowed to sleep, but I’ve been here 21 years and I haven’t slept [on call] in 21 years.”
While there is no set routine, there are some daily tasks firefighters must perform. Kelly said, “They begin the day with a check of their personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus and perform a thorough rig check to make sure all of the equipment is working properly.” The firefighters then spend part of their day checking homes and businesses for fire safety standards and performing smoke detector inspections.
This is leaving out the most dangerous element: fighting fires. The team gets about 7–12 calls a day, throughout Westfield and Union County.
Why step into danger on a daily basis? For Brennan, it’s all worth it. “The most rewarding thing is helping people.... Whether it’s being locked out of their house or putting out a fire,” said Brennan. “We just want to help everybody.”