Fire. A radicalized form of air and one of mankind’s oldest foes.
I have a complicated history with fire after my minor house fire in December 2020.
Thanks to the quick response of our local heroes in the Bemidji Police Department and Bemidji Fire Department, we all escaped safely and the old house mostly only suffered moderate smoke damage, all of which is repaired now.
So, when I scheduled an early morning job shadow with the Bemidji Fire Department, it was a little different than my usual ride-along!
Fire engines and ladder trucks are not the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the roads, so no joy-riding to indulge a local reporter.
Instead, I tagged along with some early morning chores with some of our career firefighters!
First, Alexis and Mike gave me a quick tour before they had to respond to a medical.
Alexis and I mopped the concrete garage floor, a daily chore they say helps instill pride into their work and for practical reasons, like protecting the hoses as they’re dragged across the floor to be inspected and dried.
After quickly running back to 5th and Beltrami to my station to take care of some of my own duties, I returned for the morning meeting, where I was properly introduced to some proper fire hall coffee.
Much of the flooring, with some pieces missing, throughout the main lodge area of the fire hall is still made with asbestos, with those recognizable 9-inch tiles synonymous with asbestos tile.
The fire hall was built in the 1960s when such material was still very popular due to its fire-resistant qualities.
The fire hall’s stove also has extinguishers built into the range, ensuring no fires break out at home base while fires are being fought elsewhere!
Career firefighters work 24-hour shifts, sleeping in the dorm when possible.
Fire shifts are staffed preferably with two career firefighters on duty, with the rest filled in with volunteer paid-on-call firefighters.
Some paid-on-calls will spend nights in the dorm to ensure the vehicles have at least three crew members during the overnight calls.
After the meeting, an exchange of shift information between those heading home and those coming on to start their 24-hour shift, I accompanied Al on his equipment checks.
Al explained the equipment checks are an important part of their continued training as firefighters as well as helpful to the department in pursuing grants.
I was surprised at all the storage compartments in the fire trucks, like these battery-operated power tools.
I wish I had at least a few more storage compartments on my Prius!
I also learned that food preparation is another important aspect of being a firefighter, with firefighter Chris bringing in his smoker to prepare pork burnt ends!
Training is likely the biggest time commitment required for any community member interested in becoming a paid on-call firefighter.
I learned that I am not too short to become one at being exactly 60 inches tall, and my poor running speeds of a mile would not be judged too harshly in the agility test.
If you take pride in your work, are an upstanding person of high moral character, and have a love of serving the community, perhaps firefighting is just the thing for you!