Meet your local firefighters
Cole Steele, Olivia Bagley and Todd Hiller of Station 47 C shift receive instructions from Lt. Joshua Madsen.
photo by Linda Wiggins
How would you like a job where every day was Friday? You work one day and you have the next two days off? Sound like a dream?
Then you might want to become a firefighter paramedic like the ones who work in stations 47, 48 and 80 in Viera and Suntree.
Of course, there's always that whole risking your life thing to consider. Maybe there's a reason you get two days off after one day on.
You can meet your firefighters from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at the station closest to you, as the three stations host a fun fest with free refreshments, bounce house, face painting and more. You can tour the station house, check out huge fire engine rigs, and children can spray a massive water hose of great force. The educational events mark Fire Prevention Week and this year's focus is on updating household fire and smoke alarms.
Consider the fact that one day is not eight hours, but 24. There's a reason it is called a fire house. It's a place where firefighters live for an entire day, including a night's sleep if you can get it.
“We thought this would be a great opportunity for the public to learn about what life is like on the job, as well as an opportunity to share education about staying safe,” said Tom Neidert, district chief for Brevard County Fire Rescue District 45 and organizer of the events.
Like the firefighters, district chiefs work the A, B or C shift that spans 24 hours. The local DC works out of Station 47 in Viera East, and covers the Viera/Suntree stations and beyond. They coordinate the responses to emergencies, especially when multiple stations and specialty equipment or specifically trained staff is required.
While the three stations are assigned to the Suntree/Viera area, they are all part of Brevard County services and may be dispatched where needed in unincorporated Brevard or to a municipality to assist its fire rescue efforts.
The Suntree/Viera area is typically seen as a great area to work in public service. The resources are good, crime is low, facilities tend to be state of the art, families are middle to upper income and education is prized. However, the sentiment is not so in fire service. A growing number of nursing homes in the Viera/Suntree area virtually guarantee you won't sleep through a night. Rookies are common, and firefighters with time on the job are rare in these parts.
This is beyond the fact that gray hair is rare in the profession in general. Firefighters must remain fit and pass regular fitness tests that include the ability to carry a human body from peril. Many of those who stay on the job longer than a few years begin to look toward the mental finish line of 25 years of service for a pension. If you do see a wrinkle or two, it is likely on a lieutenant, one per station per shift.
While no firefighter will say it on record, the pay is low when the risk and lifestyle inconvenience is factored in. They frequently count on a spouse to pitch in enough income to afford a home and to raise a family. It's tough for them to help out with child care or transportation to school or extracurricular activities because they literally are out of pocket for entire 24-hour periods and cannot leave the job, even in a pinch, as with most mortals. They can never count on a particular day off, holidays included. They work every third day into infinity, except if they have put in for a shift trade, and only if it has been approved.
During this 24 hours, they truly live with a second family. They work from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. the next day, always with the same coworkers who share that shift. Anything that would be found in a home is at the station. A kitchen, big family-size table, workout gear, big screen TV surrounded by recliners for each person, and a large common bedroom, the beds partitioned off with closets. They take turns planning menus and cooking, and the humor is nonstop, the bluer the language the better, often at the good-natured expense of one another. It truly is a family, after all.
If typical family members would figuratively lay down their life for a brother or sister, in the case of the firefighter paramedics of stations 47, 48 and 80, it is literally a day in the life.