Firemen passionate about work
Every hour of every day there are about at least nine men who are ready and waiting to save your life, your home and your family. No matter who you are these men will drop everything and come to the rescue when they are called. They will put themselves in harms way to keep you alive. These supermen belong to the Brookhaven Fire Department.
Walking into any one of the three Departments, which have at least three men at all times, is a little like walking in to a fraternity house. The station is filled with group of men who spend their free time cracking jokes, laughing and planning when and what their next meal will be. It’s a brotherhood of men who enjoy each other and what they do. But everything changes when the alarm goes off; they come completely different men focused on one task. The tone changes, everything is dropped, they put on their 75 pounds of equipment and headed to the scene within minutes. It doesn’t matter if they are in the middle of cooking dinner, sleeping, or even soaping up in a shower when that alarm goes off they are up, which explains why heart attacks are the cause of 47.2 percent of the job related fatalities.
“If I go to work it means that somebody is having a bad day,” said Fireman Dwayne Brumfield. “I hate that they are having a bad day, but it means I get to do my job. I guess you’ve got to be a bit crazy to run into a house while everybody else is running out of it.”
Nothing is ever stagnant for the men. If they are not at the station or fighting fires, they are in class. The firemen are constantly training and attending classes beyond the required basic requirements. Unlike other jobs, receiving more education and training has no financial benefits. They are not required to go, but most of them attend any way.
Captain Jeff Ainsworth is always looking to learn new skills. He said he takes classes when he gets a chance because he wants to be the best he can be at his job. None of the men work for money, some of them have even left higher paying jobs, they do it because they want to help people. Ainsworth said he learns more to better help people in different emergency situations.
“We have to know a little bit about every situation,” said Shift Captain Billy Beason. Because you never know what you are going to be walking in to; you have to be prepared for anything said Beason.
The Mississippi Fire Academy offers classes in everything from train rescues to dealing with hazardous materials. Every class teaches a specific skill that better equips officers to handle even the most bizare situations.
Because they will only work about three days a week, most of them have second or even third jobs. The median income for a fireman in Brookhaven is about $33,000, so the ability to have another job is a big help.
In down time, the Brookhaven Fire Department also serves the community beyond what the typical emergency situation. They have watered public flowerbeds, helped retrieve flags from flag poles, filled water tanks for community events, stood by for school bonfires and any other kind of community service. It can be tedious, but they are always there for Brookhaven.
“We’ll do anything within reason,” said Ainsworth.
If someone calls and it pertains to the public, they will assist.
Most of the time the firemen are hanging around the stations, which is a home away from home. They are on duty for 24 hours at a time and off for 48. For that day on, they eat, sleep and hang out at the station, waiting for a call. While they are on duty they have to be with the other men on their shift at all times. If one of them goes to pick up dinner, they all pile in the fire truck and go, and when one of them needs to go to the Piggly Wiggly, all of them go. They are a family.
“We don’t get paid for work we do, we get paid for work we can do,” said Fireman Ray White. “We are trained, we are professionals and we are prepared to do our job. To me firemen have the best jobs in the world. 98 percent of your job is butt time, but that two percent is all it takes for you to go out and fight a fire for one hour. Statistically you have really done 40 hours of work when compared to someone who has an eight to five job.”
That two percent of the time when firemen arrive on the scene of a fire, there are many things they are taking into consideration: which way will they attack the fire or what pressure do they need for the hoses. One of the most important questions is if there is someone inside the burning structure, because if there is, they cannot immediately use water. It seems contradictory, but even though the water will put out the fire, it would kill anyone stuck in the home.
Brumfield explained that the water coming out of the hose would immediately turn to steam when it hits the fire. He said if someone were in the building it would be like boiling crawfish, the steam would immediately kill them.
Captain Eric Smith said one drop of water would expand 1,700 times larger when it is transformed to steam. The steam is what puts out fire. When a fireman is using the hose, he can use water to put out fire and air to push the fire. The nozzle of the hose actually separates the water in to droplets adding air to the mix so they are able to push a fire in certain directions.
On the scene, they also have to think about water pressure. A fire truck holds about 500 gallons of water, which will last only minutes. For a small fire it may work, but most the time they have to immediately connect the engine to a hydrant. This requires a lot of knowledge about pressure and volume, which is why one person is in charge of watching the gauges on the fire truck and directs water to each hose at certain pressures.
All of these small details are constantly in the back of their minds while on scene and that’s just for a fire. Every emergency situation they arrive to has its own set of procedures. Because there are so many aspects to the job, it takes a well-oiled team to help. The brotherhood serves them well while on duty. The family mentality may include picking on each other like siblings, but when it comes to actual emergencies it makes them an unstoppable force.
The firemen are Brookhaven superheroes. They are on call rain or shine, day in and day out, to help the community. They do not work for fortune, the do not ask for fame, they are all there because they love what they do and care about helping Brookhaven. It’s not a job; it’s a career and passion.
“I’ve never woken up and said ugh, I have to go to the fire department. Most people have jobs where they don’t always want to go to work,” said Brumfield. “There is a difference between a job and a career. If you wake up in the morning, you get there, go to work and you hate it, to me that’s a job. If you get up and you are a ready, that’s a career.”