I wrote a blog!
So I'm writing a blog. Why? I have no idea. Will there be more than 1? No idea. What will they be about? No idea. Get the picture? Consider it therapy. For me not you. I can take suggestions. Will I listen to them. No idea. If you read it thanks. If you have feedback by all means tell me. If you don't want to read it, don't read it :). Will there be grammar mistake? YES !!
Ok topic number one. I am retiring this year. I think. I'm 99.9% certain. Why? Its time. Do I still enjoy what I do? Yes. Is it getting harder to do? Absolutely. Why did I become a firefighter in the first place? It isnt as romantic as you may think. I didnt grow up dreaming of putting out fires. I had toy fire trucks like most boys, and I had a bit of an introduction to the job when I was 7 and my mother was dating a firefighter but that was about it. So how did I get here? In the fall of 1985 while driving my mothers car it caught fire. I had to get a drive to station number 2 ( ironically where I will finish my career ) to report the fire. I rode down on the truck with the crew to my car. That was kinda cool. I went home later and after explaining to my mother that we no longer had a car i said I think I know what I want to do. She contacted her old BF to inquire what the process was and a few days later I filled out an application in city hall. Passed the aptitude ( no not attitude ) test and proceeded to fail the physical. Well that sucked. The city of Saint John was doing another hiring 6 months later and lo and behold I passed and was accepted. It really was an accomplishment at the time. You didn't need a diploma from fire school back then so there was generally between 500 and 1000 people applying for the job at a time. There is a long story that I will leave out for now but in September of 1986 I began my training at #8 fire station with 6 other recruits. I was the youngest and with the exception of perhaps 1 other, I was the smallest tipping the scales at a robust 175. Also a self admission that I was the greenest. I didnt know anything about anything, but here I was. To say I was terrified was an understatement. I was going to have to bury my fear of heights for one thing. 2 things got me through. Desperation for one. I needed the job. Needed a career. The other were my classmates. Couldn't have asked for a belter group of guys. The team work that you hear about just happened organically. there was no competition. No “me me me “. Every one worked together and were supportive. They have always said you dont lose the bond that you develop with your recruit class. I would have to agree.
I was hired as a holiday relief firefighter for the saint John Fire Department on May 5th (ish) 1987 at the ripe old age of 21. training had taught us the basics but the real training was all on the job. I walked into number 1 station ( the big house ) shaking like a leaf. Back then there were 16 men on duty so that meant 16 were also leaving so the apparatus floor was full. Full of grizzled and skeptical veterans. Who is this young punk and is he any good? I was introduced to what felt like a million people trying desperately to remember names. One of the hardest things I needed to get past was to call them by their first name. My mother had always insisted that I when speaking to elders that I use sir or a similar tittle. They were all my elders and it felt wrong using first names. Officers were easy because we were supposed to use their tittle. It took some time. They handed me off to another holiday relief firefighter ( Jeff “ the Greek “ Maguire ) to show me the ropes. I shadowed him as I learned all the daily chores and rituals. Going over the truck and equipment. As the junior guy I needed to know where everything was because if someone yelled for it I had to bring it. There was a lot to learn as I impatiently waited for that first call or fire. My first call was for a car leaking gas. These calls were very regular back then as it had just been the summer before that saint John experienced the uptown explosions caused by gas tanks leaking into the sewer system. My first fire was a few weeks later on the corner of Main st and adelaide st in the north end. It was in the apartment above Polleys convivence store. It wasn't a huge barn burner so to speak but it was nice to get the first one under my belt. Things move quickly around here and less than a year later they were handing me a new recruit ( Paul Britt ) to mold and mentor. Sorry to say I failed miserably. Just kidding Paul.
i was hired as a permanent FF in June of 1991 and my first deployment was number 7 station on the citys upper west side with a crew that would become infamous for many reasons. ( Ill never tell ). Capt. Don Walker was an amazing Firefighter and person. He was great to work for. took care of his crew. Gave us a long leash with our antics. His only rule was when we went out the door we were all business. Our senior man was Lenny “ Mountain “ Andrews. Len was 6 foot 5 or 6, strong as an ox and a lot of fun to work with, not so much to wrestle with. Dennis Hebert, famous for his loud mouth ( sorry Den ) and Ror “ Shakey “ Melvin rounded out the crew and we became known as the 3 basket cases. Im not sure why. Wink Wink. I hate to admit it but I learned everything from this crew. How to be an aggressive FF, how to bond, how to treat people, how not to get caught up in the BS politics of the job. ( yes i need a refresher in that one ). We stayed together as a crew for the most part for 5 years. Lots of fires. Lots of saves. lots of losses. A ton of laughs and memories.
I bounced around stations and Platoons over the years. Every station at one point or another. I wrote the Lieutenants roster in 2008 becoming a senior man and qualified Lt. I was promoted to Lt in October 2016. I get to finish off my career in the station that started it, #2 station. the other cool thing about this station is that from the front I can see my old bedroom window in Highmedow park when I was around 10. Makes me feel slightly old though.
I will have spent 34.5 years here when I leave in the fall. Why am I leaving now? Its just time. There are lots of guys who stay longer and work to an older age but for me im just done physically and mentally. I still enjoy the job itself but I dont feel I physically am able to take more beatings. I know Im not alone as we all take a huge beating on our bodies. Chronic back injuries have plagued me for years. Arthritis in most joints that i chalk up to many nights wearing wet frozen gear in -20 temps. tearing apart buildings while wearing 80 pounds of gear doesnt help either. Mentally Im tired of the constant political attacks we endure and the deep cuts. I told you that my first day there were 16 men working #1 station. Today that can be as low as 4. Its a young mans job. Working nights is hurting me now as well. Ive worked shift work since I was 14 and always loved it until the last few years. Doesnt matter if we have a slow night or a busy one I find myself drained my first day off. So yes its time.
i have worked with hundreds of men and women over my career. Many are not with us any more. Some left us far to early. What I can say is that everyone Ive worked with has amazed me when its time to “ do the job “. Saint John has been and will continue to be very fortunate with the quality of individuals they have serving them. To say they go above and beyond is an understatement. I dont say that to toot my own horn, i legitimately mean that. No mater what the situation is, no matter how short staffed, no matter who, rich or poor, the level of commitment to solving what ever problem you called us for, they will do whatever is in their power to help. Its an absolute pleasure to have served the residents and businesses of Saint John for the bulk of my life. You are in good hands. Now….on to be a rock star.