Like father, like son: Firefighter gene gets passed down

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Brookhaven Fire Department Capt. Kelly Porter had an exciting day recently, but it wasn’t because of a fire, an accident, or even a cat stuck in a tree. On May 18, 2024, his son Samuel joined the department as a firefighter.

Like his father, 18-year-old Samuel was not inexperienced when he applied. Both Porters got their start teenagers in the Hog Chain Volunteer Fire Department of Lincoln County. 

Forty-two-year-old Kelly has been a fireman for 24 years. It just seemed natural when his son followed in his footsteps at HCVFD, but taking the step into firefighting as a full-time career made Dad especially proud.

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“We all supported him with what he wanted. It’s been an awesome career for me,” Kelly said. “Not a lot of people absolutely love their job for 24 years, but I still do.”

Every little boy wants to be a fireman or police officer at some point growing up, the elder Porter said, and with him the first spark of interest in his career was no different.

“When I was young, I guess it was just seeing the fire trucks. You know, it’s the inner child still,” he said. “The firemen and the job looked cool.”

Samuel agreed — “It was all the lights and sirens, too.”

But what keeps both interested in and loving the job is the service they provide to the community.

“You’re always helping somebody. That’s the part I enjoy the most,” said Kelly. “It’s about the public. You’re doing a service for the public. If we go out, it’s always to help somebody. If somebody calls on us, they need us. I’m glad we’re not needed as much, but when we are, it’s great to help somebody in need.”

So far, Samuel has responded to an automobile crash, some false alarm calls, and a medical lift assist. He’s studying for a hazardous materials class he has to pass before he can go to the State Fire Academy. Kelly said the “rookie” firefighters are assigned work based on their experience.

“If they have prior experience, the Chief (Jeff Ainsworth) leaves it up to their supervisors,” he said. “I’m his supervisor. He has some experience from the VFD, but any rookie training with me is going to be ‘in my back pocket,’ just for safety.”

When they are not fighting fires or helping with other emergencies, members of the Fire Department continually train for when those moments come.

Samuel is training daily by reviewing the truck and tools, physical training, chopping with a fire axe, and doing an evacuation walk (evac walk) while in full turnout gear and wearing an air pack while carrying a fire hose — all of which adds roughly 70 pounds to Samuel’s medium frame. 

“He’ll do the walk out here until his air pack runs out,” said Kelly. 

Parts of the job are easy, the Porters said, like giving children tours of the firehouse, trucks and equipment. 

“We love it,” Kelly said. “We may help save a life just by teaching the kids fire safety. We’re always open to the public to show them the station and the truck. It always makes the kids’ day. And the adults.”

The job overall is “the hardest job I ever had,” the captain said smiling. “I still love it.”

The camaraderie between the firefighters is one of the biggest pluses of the job for both men. 

“You live here with these guys,” said Kelly. “No matter what happens they’re family.”

Samuel agreed. “They make the time go quicker.”

And he likes getting to go to work with his dad.

“I enjoy working with him. He keeps me straight up here.”

“Not many people get to experience that,” Kelly said. “Just having him come in here and us being able to work together as a second-generation fireman, it’s one of the proudest moments of my life. There are not many jobs like being a family and having your son be a firefighter.”

Samuel smiled and nodded.

“It still gives me the chills.”