Life at Fire Station 8

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Posted Thu, Nov 14, 2013

Lt. Romero (Left) and firefighters at Station 8 Photo taken by Robert Crew

Lt. Joshua Romero (Left) and firefighters at Station 8
[Photo by Robert Crew]

DENVER– 1616 Park Ave. is home to one of the busiest fire stations in the country — Station 8. “Last year we went on just under 6,100 runs,” said Joshua Romero, a Lieutenant firefighter at station 8. “This year we will reach over 6,200. We are averaging about 18 runs a day.”

“The fire department is pretty much a Jack-of-all-trades,” said firefighter Ronnie Marrone. “We respond to calls ranging from medical, to search and rescue, from heart attacks to auto accidents, to elevator rescues, to construction workers stuck in a trench, to a drunken homeless guy laying by the road.”

Firemen work long hours, a full 24 hour shift to be exact, before returning home to their families. They work 1 day on, and then have the next two days off.

“It might not sound bad working every third day, but you usually don’t get any sleep at the station, and sometimes getting home is tough,” Romero said. “It’s hard not to fall asleep at the wheel.” At many of the fire stations in the country with a high volume of calls, two rigs will run the same line. This cuts the amount of runs in half. Firefighters at Station 8 don’t have this luxury.

Romero, 35, has been a firefighter for 14 years, and has been a lieutenant for 6 of those years. He decided to become a firefighter after a car accident happened in front of his house when he was 17. “A car hit another parked car. My friends just stood around and watched. I went to go help. I decided then that this is what I wanted to do. My father being a Denver police officer also influenced me to go into public safety, that’s what I knew growing up.”

Romero isn’t the only one at Station 8 who was influenced by his father to go into public safety. Sometimes it really does run in the family. “I grew up in it,” said Shaun Rondinelli. “My dad was a firefighter.”

“I have some cousins and relatives that are firemen,” Marrone said. “It runs in the family.”

Others are motivated by less traditional reasons. “I wanted to be a help and service to the cat community,” Jeff Johnson said joking. “I started fighting fires for the forest service for six seasons before coming here.” Johnson has been a firefighter for 14 years.

“I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day doing the same things over and over,” firefighter James Esparza said. “I wanted adventures and going out every day. My family was so proud of me, and my kids are so proud of me for what I do.”

“Becoming a firefighter is just something I’ve always wanted to do,” firefighter Brad Nerger said. “It started in high school, I got into the cadet program.”

Fire stations have two vehicles. Half of them man the truck, which has the ladder. “It’s like a giant toolbox,” Romero said. The other vehicle is called the engine, which has the hose and the water. “The guys in the truck like to think they are more important,” Romero said. The trucks team’s job is to gain entry to the building, and are involved in search and rescue. The engine team’s job is to put out the fire.

“We all have out assigned duties,” said Lt. Mike Kimsey, firefighter of 23 years. “If everyone doesn’t do their job, things fall apart. I equate it to a football team. If everyone isn’t on the same page, the same play, things don’t work.”

Firefighters are all certified in the same things, but are placed in specific positions on the team.

Besides stopping fires, cutting people out of cars in an accident, tending to drunk people, and rescuing cats, firefighters often get involved with the community in other ways.

“One thing I was able to do that not a lot of people get to do,” Romero said, “at my old station every Thursday we would go to some middle or high school and help kids with their homework. Then we played dodge ball with them.

“Who we are, what we do makes people trust us more than anyone else. It makes a difference.”

The Struggles of Being a fireman:

“Fire fighters have 3 times more suicides than the general population,” said Lieutenant Kimsey. “Higher then police officers. We have had 5 line of duty deaths in the past 20 years, and we have had 7 suicides in the past 20 years. It’s a very stressful job. We are all type-A personalities. If we don’t do something right, it weighs on you. We are all expected to do everything ourselves and don’t ask for help often.”

“1 in 3 firefighters will get some sort of cancer.”

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About Robert Crew

Robert Crew is a Denver-area freelance writer.

View all posts by Robert Crew

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