by NightWriter357Fantasy heroes wear capes. Real life heroes don firefighter gear. Like any public service job, fire fighting is a civic responsibility to aid and protect. Medical emergencies requiring quick responses are the bulk of firefighters’ duties. The firefighter is a paramedic, rescue and disaster worker, trainer and safety technician. Most of us only see snapshots of these men and women at work, yet a great deal of training is required and administered beyond what the general public is privy to.
The 109-year-old Compton Fire Department Headquarters, “Station 1” is one of the busiest in Southern California. Averaging almost 11,000 calls a year with a four-minute response time, the staff of 11 includes Fire Captain Shelia Hopper, a 24-year veteran and the first and only female firefighter in the city of Compton. Hopper’s duties include supervising the safety of an all-male crew. She is responsible for trainings and oversees fire and medical emergencies that her team is called to. “I observe the firefighters, including how they handle patient care, and I delegate what needs to happen at the scene,” says Hopper.
When they’re not fighting fires, the day-to-day responsibilities of firefighters include the maintenance of equipment coupled with scheduled hands-on trainings. This includes drill practices. Some of the immediate drills are hosing procedures, as well as proper use of chainsaw equipment, which is used to cut through roofs. There are also fire tact offensive and defensive mode practice on how to safely enter and exit a burning building. Other continuing education includes emergency medical services (EMS) training. Occasionally, videos and other staff presentations serve as refresher courses on CPR and other safety precautions.
Firefighter Jesus “Armando” Lopez is a seven year employee at the historic Compton station. He loves the challenge of being a firefighter and one of the things that he finds instantly gratifying is assisting others in distress. “In medical emergencies, knowing that I helped someone who wasn’t breathing at first to start breathing again makes me feel good,” he says. “As firefighters we get excited about fighting fires because we get to do our job and use our equipment,” he exclaims.
While sanitation, cleaning and cooking are all the usual daily duties divvied up between firefighters, Lopez explains what occurs before the start of every 24-hour shift. “One of the first things that we do upon arrival of every shift is to check out our gear, this includes personal protective equipment, such as the breathing apparatus, mask and other fire intervention tools,” he says. Some of the apparatus fits in the different-sized pockets of the fire workers’ retardant jacket and hood.
Other work attire, he further explains, “such as boots and gloves must be kept in good condition at all times.” Firefighters also have to test their radios and the different channels in intervals throughout the day to ensure that there always working properly. All of the firefighter gear is then placed on the truck where it is easily accessible in case of an emergency or medical call.
“After our daily routine prep is complete we’re sometimes allowed to go work out at the gym,” beams Lopez who says, “It’s up to the captain on duty.” Hopper laughs and chimes in, “Yeah, you really have to work out with this type of job.”