The Men Behind the Engine

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Posted Sun, Dec 15, 2013

Wheat Ridge Firefighter

Firefighter Stuart Webb diagrams the company’s workout program tailored to aid a fireman’s strength and stamina. [Photo by Ashley Hattle]

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Most of the calls Wheat Ridge firefighters respond to are far from fire related. Many calls are surprising situations ranging from car accidents, to strange smells — to kittens stuck in trees…

“When I first came on,” says Firefighter Stuart Webb, “it was cold and windy. This cat got stuck in the tree and we got the call.”

Some days the radio is filled with dispatch calls…other days, radio static. When it’s a slow day, there still a lot of work to do. This is when a lot of maintenance is taken care of along with skill and protocol drills. Firefighters also have access to a workout room to work on their strength and stamina during an emergency.

Becoming a firefighter is difficult. There are a lot of aspects to the training. Unlike other career fields where the employer will pay for training, a firefighter must be trained before applying. Even then the opportunities for work are slim.

“It’s really hard to be a firefighter,” Webb says. “It’s so competitive, you have to be trained already and then reserve volunteer.”

Wheat Ridge Firefighter

Lt. Jeff Gurich (left) and Engineer Greg Mular(right) spend a lighter moment going over company logs and safety procedures. [Photo by Ashley Hattle]

When most people think of a fire engine they think its chalk full of firefighters, actually only two of the four riding the big red truck are firefighters, the others are an engineer and lieutenant. They are not alone though; to most calls a paramedic and an EMT accompany them.

Some incidents can be quite heartbreaking, but others remind these men and women why they love what they do.

“An older lady ran out of oxygen,” says Paramedic Deb Weaver. “By the time we got to the hospital, she was awake. Had we not shown up she would have died.”.

Sometimes those they’ve helped go so far as to come to the station and show their appreciation.

“A woman had a heart attack. [We] got her to the hospital and we didn’t hear anything and a woman two weeks later walks in with treats. She was alive just because we showed up to help,” says Lt. Jeff Gulrich.

This last summer fires destroyed thousands of acres of land across Colorado. During this devastation Gulrich was able to help the Black Forest fire relief in Colorado Springs.

Wheat Ridge Firefighter

Firefighter Stuart Webb demonstrates safety and breathing equipment firefighters may use during an emergency. [Photo by Ashley Hattle]

“The community surprised us and people were positioned all down there. Just a community of people standing there with signs and cheering at every rig that went by and that was very very rewarding,” Gulrich says.

Hollywood has a habit of exaggerating the amount of fires the average station deals with on a daily, sometimes even monthly, basis. Most of the time the incidents the fire station responds to are not fire related.

“It’s not like Chicago Fire,” explains EMT Jon Mogilka. “We get maybe one a lifetime and they get six a shift.”

These seasoned professionals spend days away from home ready and waiting for a chance to help no matter the call. They put everything on hold and risk their safety to put people’s lives as their top priority.

 

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Ashley Hattle

About Ashley Hattle

Ashley Hattle is a senior at Metropolitan State University (MSU). In high school, Hattle worked for the school newspaper, The Blazer, as the Executive Photo Editor and Lifestyles Editor. After high school she pursued a career in photography and attended the Art Institute of Colorado. After the Art Institute she quickly began working for a photography company in Denver. Through working as a photographer in Denver she re-found her love of journalism and has been a magazine journalism major at MSU since 2010. Hattle hopes to work as a journalist and photographer after graduation in May 2014.

View all posts by Ashley Hattle

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