Fire Service and Life
Last week I was given the opportunity to spend some time at Station 1 and do a ride along with the Hanford Fire Department. My companions for the day were Captain Tom Mckean, Engineer Chris Frediani and Probationary Firefighter Tim Borsch. When I arrived at nine-thirty in the morning Chris and Tim were in the middle of their workout. They start each day with a work out to ensure they are in peak physical condition.
As the three gentlemen set about making breakfast, I made my introductions to Chris and Tim having met Captain Mckean previously. As shifts are forty-eight hours each day there are tasks that have to be done. The shift was on day two when I joined them. “ The first day is a passdown of information from the previous shift, an inspection of the engine and any equipment that needs to be added to the engine is then added.” Captain Mckean explained over a cup of coffee.
The State engine was in need of a routine inspection that day. As Engineer Frediani and Firefighter Borsch inspected the vehicle they explained that this engine was paid for by the state but is maintained and staffed by Hanford Fire Department. This engine is designed to be driven through areas that a larger engine would have difficulty reaching, while still having the same power of the bigger fire-engine.
Around noon we had a call for service. A minor traffic collision with minimal injuries in downtown. Once we returned to the station it was time for lunch and as we prepared our food, we talked about life, the fire service and how each man decided on his career path.
Captain Mckean said of his path to fire service “I was unsure about what I wanted in life when I met the woman that would be my wife. Her father was a firefighter in Santa Barbara county. I originally was thinking of becoming a teacher, but then shifted my focus when I learned more about the Fire Service.” He went on to add “ Fire service is family oriented and the guys you work with become your family.” Pointing to the dining room table he continued “ I have learned more about life sitting at that table than anywhere else. I’ve learned about finances, homeownership, cars, sports, kids, anything in life can be learned at that table. One of the younger guys needed help with applying for a credit card a few years back, we helped him. That’s the camaraderie we have in the fire service.”
Engineer Frediani became interested in the fire service while in college. He was in premed school and decided to pursue EMT training. Following that, he became a volunteer firefighter in Colorado, where he was then hired at the same department. He stayed there for twelve years, until moving to Hanford, where he has been for the last eight years.
Originally interested in becoming an automotive engineer, Borsch began working for Future Ford in Clovis. He attended college and while there a friend became a firefighter. After a ride along with that friend, he was hooked and knew that this was his career path. Upon completion of EMT training he worked for American Ambulance until he was hired for Schedule B work with Calfire in San Luis County. Borsch began his probation year with Hanford fire as of November of last year.
When speaking on fire service and how to join Captain Mckean stated “ More than one aspect makes the right candidate hard to find. It is a complex hiring process and very competitive. The basic requirements are completion of a fire academy, EMT training and passing the physical, medical and psychological evaluations. Then there is an interview process broken down into a panel interview and a chief’s interview. There is also a written exam to pass to prove your understanding of your knowledge. If a candidate has progressed that far, then they begin the probation period of one year. That is yet another way to determine if they are truly a good fit for this career.”
“The fire service is a specialized trade, with the academy focusing on job specific education. The candidate pool is shrinking, because people just aren’t aware of the requirements or what it takes to do this job.” Engineer Frediani stated.
Due to the nature of the job, Hanford Fire Department has implemented a new program to help deal with the traumas that occur. Called Critical Incident Stress Debriefings, after a call to service that is particularly rough or upsetting, the team talks about it. Captain Mckean is trained to lead these discussions. “ There will be calls that stay with you, it’s what happens with this job. Our goal is to not let the negative emotions fester and lead to further tragedy.” Mckean spoke of the program.
Towards the end of my visit, Captain Mckean said “ The Fire Service teaches you to sift through the insignificant things and to focus on and take care of the actual problem.” The fire service is a trade worth getting into if you meet the requirements and have the interest. I learned a few life lessons myself, sitting at the table with the Hanford Fire Department.
As always, Be safe and have fun,