By Ben Fischer
As children, many kids dream of growing up to be policemen, astronauts, doctors, or firemen. Without fear of being different, I was one of those kids. Rarely do these dreams become reality because a new career interests them, or they just don’t know where to start. One of the best ways to accomplish these dreams is through a ride along.
Growing up, I would picture myself as a soldier in the military. With a father who was a former marine in the Vietnam War, and a brother-in law in the army, I was hard pressed to steer clear of this career. So I was driven into the aspect of criminal justice, completing 24 hours (6 hours shy of completing my freshman year in college,) in CJ credits through ACC before my senior year. I thought I had my path after high school figured out.
When my brother graduated top five percent of his class at the fire academy, and I learned the benefits, hours, and lifestyle of a fire fighter, I found myself questioning the path I was about to for take, questioning my childhood fantasies.
I had always pictured myself as the one getting the bad guys. But now at 18, I question whether or not I want to catch the bad guys, or save the bad guys; not just saving bad guys, but saving the good guys as well.
Just recently I was given the opportunity to ride out with the Leander Fire Department, and let me tell you, it’s an experience I won’t soon forget. Every job has its advantages and disadvantages. For me, aside from saving and helping those in need, the hours, lifestyle, and friendship are all just a plus.
The way they interacted was just fascinating; in public, in the firehouse, in the truck, and on scene. Although the day was slow and the station I was at did not make any calls while I was present, I could sense the camaraderie.
While on a run to the local HEB for chili supplies for lunch, (yes I am lucky enough to say I helped cook, serve, and eat a true fireman’s chili,) it was countless how many people came up to start a friendly conversation with the men in their uniforms. Some people just simply said thank you. Many children came and asked for pictures.
It was a feeling that I am proud to say I was able to experience. Is it always like this? Sitting around, waiting, talking, checking equipment, I asked. “It’s not that we choose to sit around, but it’s really all we can do. We have to be ready and able to go right away,” said FF Eric Petty. I found this to be true, as every time a call on the intercom came across, the demeanor in the station would instantly change.
If firefighting is a career you are thinking about going into, I strongly suggest that you participate in a ride-along. Although it seems like just anyone can do it, Petty told me, “You have to have it in you; we’re the guys that respond on the worst days; unfortunately, it’s that first call that can make or break you.”
The Leander Fire Department was great. I had a great time and great experience. It also helped me in my decision with my career after high school. I would like to think Kirke Phillips for giving me the chance to ride out with the fire department, and Lt. Anthony Pryor for allowing me to ride with his station, Stephen Sullivan for showing me around, and FF. Petty for welcoming me and showing me around as well.