My time as a firefighter was truly a journey from start to finish. I became a volunteer firefighter in 1976, as a member of Fire Station No.1 in
Chester. Many things would happen over the next nine years, as I began to learn about a calling on my life. My volunteer days in Chester were an introduction to working on an engine company.
While in the Coast Guard, I served as a firefighter, on an engine, at Coast Guard Station Cape May. I then joined two volunteer stations in North Carolina – Hatteras and Buxton. This period simply strengthened my desire to seek a career as a firefighter. My attempt over the next few articles will be to tell my story of the journey from engine companies to truck companies. I doubt that you will be able to glean any fire safety tips from these articles, but I am just led to share this.
In 1985, I left the Coast Guard, my wife and I moved back to Chester, and I became a part-time dispatcher for Chesterfield, while continuing to serve as a volunteer firefighter in Chester. In October of that same year, I was hired as a full-time firefighter for Chesterfield Fire & EMS. There was no rookie school planned for a few months, so they sent us to a one-week survival school, and then I was sent to Engine 9 (then U-93), working for Sgt. Vaeth. I spent three months at Engine 9, completing my Motor Pump Operator training before heading to rookie school No. 16 on January 6, 1986.
I completed rookie school in March and was sent to my assignment. My next assignment would be Engine 8 (then U-83) in Matoaca. Matoaca felt like the rest home of fire stations for me. I worked with some great people, but man was it slow. If it were not for the medical calls that we ran, it would have been nearly unbearable. You must remember, I was young, dumb and wanted to be busy. We did some great training, training and then some more training. Before I left Station 8 three years later, I spent some time on Engine 8 C-shift, just my officer and I. To say that you learn engine work from the position of limited manpower is an understatement.
I am going to end this article by sharing what it meant to be on an engine company. An engine is that piece of fire apparatus that carries lots of fire hose. Engines in my day carried 500 gallons of water. We carried an array of other equipment, but our primary job on the fire scene was to establish a water supply and put water on the fire. Chesterfield Fire & EMS has the following engines presently: E1, E2, E3, E4, E204, E5, E205, E6, E206, E7, E8, E9, E10, E11, E12, E13, E14, E15, E16, E17, E18, E19, E20, E21 and E24.
As you can see, there are engine companies, strategically positioned throughout Chesterfield County. The large number of engines also explains why engines are dispatched as first responders or closest ALS (Advance Life Support) to medical calls. This is brief overview of engine work and where I spent the first 19 years of my career. I will pick up with my journey to a number of different engine assignments and a brief time on my first truck company, in the next article.