A fireman’s life is something more than driving a red truck and spraying water on a blaze. He is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, always ready to risk his life to save others in times of disaster.
Beneath the helmet and behind the protective coat is a man whose daily life might seem to be one of leisure, waiting for a fire call. Actually, a fireman has very little spare time. When he’s not battling a blaze, he’s cleaning, scrubbing, polishing or studying.
At Station One, located in City Hall, the firemen rise at 7 a.m., after making their bunks, they set about their individually assigned chores of dusting, mopping, polishing and waxing. Each day, one man is assigned to cooking of meals and cleaning up the kitchen. They turn out some mighty fine dished, too.
Trucks and equipment are cleaned daily, brass and chrome kept spotless. All communications equipment is checked out daily to assure proper working order when in the event it is needed.
While the cook prepares breakfast, the rest of the men set about their cleaning chores. Time out is taken for breakfast, then back to work.
When not cleaning, there is always plenty of studying and practicing of emergency and fire fighting techniques. New methods are constantly being found in rescue operations and the men must be kept informed of them. As new equipment is introduced to the market, firemen must learn its use.
Practice, practice, practice. Knowing what the books say about a given situation is not enough. The men must practice setting up equipment, using it and cleaning it. “Sometimes it’s a long time between fires and the men must not forget how to use a certain piece of apparatus,” says Fire Chief G.F. Hays, who insists on efficiency and high quality performance from all 57 men on the Parkersburg Fire Department. “A man momentarily forgetting how to use a nozzle or extinguisher might very well cost him his life or delay of rescue.”
Chief Hays speaks well of his men and their performance. Admitting that his department is understaffed, the Chief is proud of the fact that the department has been able to handle all fires, major or minor.
Most of the men on the department are veteran firefighters. “There isn’t much turnover in personnel in this work,” the Chief said. “When a man becomes a fireman, he knows that’s what he wants, and he is dedicated. We don’t have very many quitting when the going gets rough. ” Chief Hays’ only complaint is that the department has difficulty finding enough dedicated men. Out of the last group of 20 applicants, only 2 were hired, Hays revealed. The other found other jobs and withdrew their applications, failed to meet physical or mental requirements or did not pass character investigations.
Firemen in Parkersburg work 24 hour shifts. Even on their days off, they are subject to call out in the event of a major fire. And when called out, they respond.
On duty, whether asleep, eating or working, or just relaxing in the evening, when the alarm sounds, Parkersburg firemen are ready to meet any challenge that might be calling. Hazardous and demanding? Yes . . . but it’s a rewarding career to be able to help those in need of assistance. As one fireman said, “We’re not heros because we save a child’s life or prevent a fire from getting out of hand. . . we’re just men doing our jobs, and if it calls for saving a life, we do it.”
It can be a dirty job at times, this firefighting business, but it’s also a rewarding one.