Firefighters ready for any call

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The life of a firefighter on duty is one of uncertainty, hard work and camaraderie that forms a special bond among the men, often referred to as a second family. The shift change at Engine Company No. 2 on Walton Way begins at 8 a.m., when the previous group leaves and a new set of firefighters shows up.

Sgt. Herbert Smith (left) and Lt. Ralph Jenkins drive the fire truck back to Fire Station No. 2 on Walton Way on a night in May after the truck was repaired.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Sgt. Herbert Smith (left) and Lt. Ralph Jenkins drive the fire truck back to Fire Station No. 2 on Walton Way on a night in May after the truck was repaired.

The first order of business is cleanup. Sgt. Herbert Smith, the veteran of the group and the driver, scrubs down the truck.

"You never know what the truck went through on the shift before yours," he said.

In addition to regular maintenance and yard work, the crew goes to Kroger to purchase food for their shift. They prepare hearty meals for lunch and dinner and enjoy each other's company. The men pay for their own food and are very conscious of how much they spend. Lt. Ralph Jenkins says in order to eat well during a shift, they spend between $7 and $10 a person.

The rest of the time is a waiting game.

Sgt. Smith says he has worked shifts where there was not a single call and others where he responded to four or five back-to-back calls.

The men say the unpredictability of the types and times of calls is part of the job.

"You gotta have it in you," Lt. Jenkins said.

On their down time, the firefighters - usually three or four to a 24-hour period - share jokes, stories and pranks.

"We've taken a guy's keys and put them in a bowl of water and put it in the freezer," firefighter Daniel Rigdon said.

"Makes for a longer shift for the guy," firefighter Josh Davis added with a laugh.

But when the alarm sounds, their demeanor changes instantly to intense focus. They understand the dangers they might face in the coming minutes, but they have a job to do.

"We are paid to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out," Mr. Rigdon said.

Mr. Davis says he tries not to think about the dangers, especially when going to a structure fire such as the June 18 warehouse blaze in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine firefighters.

"When something like that happens and you see it on the news, then maybe you'll think about it more," he said. "But it's not something I dwell on."

"Things can happen so quickly," Sgt. Smith said. "The fire business is a risky business," he said.

In his 27 years with the fire department, Sgt. Smith was injured once when a building collapsed, twisting his knee and compressing his chest. A fellow firefighter suffered more serious injuries, breaking his back in three places. But they train to be prepared for worse, such as a fellow firefighter in trouble during a fire.

"If it's too bad, then you can't go in, but it's the guy you live with and he's in there. It's hard. If there's a way in, we'll always try it. It's a decision you don't want to make, but you have to make," Lt. Jenkins said.

"This job will put you to the test. On every call, you don't know what you're going to," he said.

ONLINE EXTRA

Click here for an audio slideshow of the photos from Rainier's day at the firehouse.

Click here for a PDF of the full-page spread of photographs.

Comments (13) Add comment
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peonynut
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peonynut 07/01/07 - 07:46 am
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Bravo Engine Company #2

Bravo Engine Company #2

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 07/01/07 - 08:04 am
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Thank you, Guys. It's great

Thank you, Guys. It's great knowing that you're there if we need you, and that you'll do your best to help us out.

christian134
1
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christian134 07/01/07 - 08:42 am
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May God bless all

May God bless all firefighters everywhere with good health and long life. Words can not express just how gratefull I and others are for your dedication. Thank You!

mgroothand
5
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mgroothand 07/01/07 - 10:16 am
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In a way the job of a

In a way the job of a firefighter is like going fishing. Hours of boredom and then suddenly a major rush of adrenalin. Of course much more serious than fishing.

ronnyb
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ronnyb 07/01/07 - 10:58 am
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there FIREMAN for christ

there FIREMAN for christ sake!!!! Our SOLDIERS are the hero's. Yes we are thankful for fireman, for teachers, for nurses, for bus drivers, they all put there lives in danger. What the hell is the big deal of a fireman? It is a job they each has chosen, just like a cleak, a solider, a doctor.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 07/01/07 - 11:24 am
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I think the water use every

I think the water use every day should questioned with the water restrictions in place.

dofos
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dofos 07/01/07 - 12:21 pm
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ronnyb ans Fedupwith AUG -

ronnyb ans Fedupwith AUG - you both are stupid and ungrateful!!

cethompson
15
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cethompson 07/01/07 - 04:09 pm
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ronnyb...I am a second

ronnyb...I am a second generation fireman. I watched my daddy get on the truck and rush out the door many times as a young boy not knowing if he was ever coming home to us. When he retired I chose the same life because of the joy you receive from helping people in distress. I have a wife and 3 children who want me to come home, yet understand the sacrifice I may have to make one day. I chose this profession over ten years ago. I thank GOD every day for the brave men and women serving our country, fighting for the freedom that we have. But we, the firefighters and police officers are the ones protecting your illiterate self here at home. When the call comes in, they do not tell us the name of the person we are going to help. We put our lives on the line everyday protecting people we don't know. I may die so a complete stranger may live or worse, I may die so someone like you may live. WE ARE THE HEROS TOO!

As It Is
2
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As It Is 07/01/07 - 04:19 pm
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Kudos to our FireFighters.

Kudos to our FireFighters. Thanks for all you do as it is greatly appreciated.

bravesfan1
0
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bravesfan1 07/01/07 - 05:26 pm
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Why is it that recognition

Why is it that recognition always seems to go to the fire and sherriff's department but never ems?

cethompson
15
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cethompson 07/01/07 - 05:38 pm
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emtff20...I am an EMT as

emtff20...I am an EMT as well, and you are right...all the emts and paramedics deserve the same respect as fire and police. excuse my oversight.

stowash03
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stowash03 07/02/07 - 08:41 am
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This blog is to ronnyb. You

This blog is to ronnyb. You don't have a clue!!! I totally agree that our soldiers are heros, as I also served in the first Persian Gulf war, and now serve as a firefighter here in Augusta. You probably need to come and work an emergency scene with us and then maybe you'll understand why firefighters are considered heros. That's why I said that you don't have a clue. You have never been lost in a burning building or been in a situation helping someone else and didn't know if you'd make it out yourself.

fireman352
0
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fireman352 07/02/07 - 03:00 pm
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Who is this ronnyb????

Who is this ronnyb???? someone who calls the fire dept. to put out his barbeque grill. I am also a firefighter/Emt it takes people with great pride,respect,love, to sacrifice there lives in order to save small minded individuals as your-self. We as public servants treat everybody as if they were our family. Apply for the job and see if you can even man up or shut up!!!!!!!

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