The alarm rings at 2.30am and the firefighters at Station 39 Fire Department jump out of bed, scramble into their uniforms and dash to the truck that will carry them to the location of the emergency. For the on-call firefighters of the Charlotte Fire Department, which is open round the clock, it is perfectly normal to be woken in the middle of the night to answer emergency calls. Every time that a firefighter answers a call, he knows that he will have to help someone that he’s never met before, risking his own life; but it’s a matter of pride for every firefighter.
But what does it really mean to be a firefighter? It means helping others, helping one’s own community. It means always having to be physically fit and in excellent health in order to save someone from a burning building or from any other dangerous situation. Every firefighter must be prepared for any eventuality and above all, he must always be psychologically ready for his own work and whatever he might meet in the course of his duty.
Today we are talking about Jeff Nixon, one of the very few firefighters who have made it to Charlotte’s Station 39. Here is the interview:
How long have you been a Firefighter?
I have been a Firefighter for 10 years now. Originally, I was a Police Officer and later spent some time as a teacher before becoming a Firefighter. I have worked at Stations 14, 25, and have been at Station 39 for the last five years.
What aspects do you love about your job?
Being a Firefighter is never dull or boring. When we arrive at the station, we know that each shift will bring about new challenges and new calls.
How many calls do you average per day?
It definitely varies each day, per station. On any given day, Station 39 can be dispatched to anywhere between four and 10 calls.
On average, how many calls do you get in the middle of the night?
Nearly every shift, the bell goes off around 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.
Are there times when your job is difficult or overwhelming?
There are some calls that are more difficult to process and accept than others, but the four of us on the truck are a support system for each other.
What do you think it takes to be a Firefighter?
Integrity, drive, and a willingness and desire to make a difference.
What’s the worst call you ever went on?
There are two that stick out in my mind. Right after my second son was born, we received a med call for a mother who looked a lot like my wife at the time, and the baby was around the same age as my son. The woman had had a heart attack, and obviously, due to the similarities surrounding my family, it definitely shook me up afterwards. The second worst call was when a drug dealer hit me with his car in Uptown. After the accident, I had numerous injuries and missed about a month of work.
What is one thing about Firefighters that most people don’t know?
It takes a certain kind of person to be a Firefighter. We’re not like everyone else — we’re wired differently.