It’s 12:30 a.m. on a Saturday night, and you’re working at the fire station. An ear-piercing siren awakens you from a sound asleep, letting you know that the fire rescue team has been called out. In less than a minute, you are dressed and in the fire truck, ready to save someone from a burning building or car.
As first responders – individuals with specialized training who are often the first to provide aid in emergencies – firefighters are honored on National Responders Day, Oct. 28. In this article, Brady McDonald (18), a first-year student, offers his perspective on why he decided to join the program.
“I went through Boy Scouts, and I was pretty involved in that for a while,” McDonald said. “I did one of the summer camps in boy scouts and I was part of the medical team. It was a combination of fire rescue and medical things, which I really liked.”
The Boy Scout Slogan, “do a good turn daily,” inspired him to help people in his personal and professional life.
“[Firefighting] is a rewarding job of knowing [that] I helped someone at the end of the day,” he said.
A traumatic childhood experience also inspired McDonald to become a firefighter.
“In third grade, there was a bonfire with my family. I pulled this stick in the fire … that wasn’t in all the way, to throw it on top. But the other end of the stick came around and smacked me in the neck, and that was the side that was on fire. So, it burned me.”
Although he has relevant fire experience, McDonald still has more training to go through before he’s certified.
In Kansas, it takes approximately two years to become a certified firefighter, according to the website All Criminal Justice Degrees. During that time, trainees learn skills relevant to emergency situations, such as patient care, fire prevention, CPR, and many more.
As a recent high school graduate, McDonald appreciates the maturity and age range of students in the Fire Science Program. It’s also been rewarding to meet new people; yet, there have been challenges.
“My least favorite part of the program is probably how physical it is. With all the gear and all the heavy lifting, it really gets to you,” he said. “Also, it’s really hot with all the gear on.”
There are other challenges to becoming a firefighter. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average firefighter in the U.S. makes an average of $50,700 per year. This is $18,000 less than the average salary of U.S. citizens, according to the website, Policy Advice.
“It is a low-pay [job] but it is a really rewarding pay for me,” he said. “Maybe not everyone feels that way, but it’s rewarding and enough to know I helped somebody.”
In addition to the low-paying job issue, firefighting is a high-risk career. According to Firefighter Close Calls, 139 firefighters died from fire-related injuries in 2021 alone. When asked if he would be alright risking his life to save someone else’s he said
“It’s just peace of mind. Knowing somebody else gets an opportunity to live over my life is important to me,” McDonald said. “If there is any way to go out that’s the way I prefer, helping someone else.”
Due to the high stress and dangerous situations of the job, firefighters usually work 24-hour shifts, 10 days out of the month, according to Job Monkey.
McDonald has additional plans for the future.
“I think it would be cool to be a forest firefighter,” He continued, saying, “I really like working on cars and detailing them, too. I think it would be cool to have a detailing business on the side.”
According to The Atlantic, fire departments typically respond to over 1,000 fires caused by deep fryers, many of them on Thanksgiving because of the tradition of deep frying turkeys. With the holidays approaching, McDonald leaves JCCC students with a few requests:
“Please don’t light things on fire on purpose,” he said. “Also, try to be as respectful and cooperative as possible, because we’re there to help you.”
Eliana Klathis, features editor