Cam Roberts

My little spot on the web.

My Fire/Rescue/EMS History 2004-Present (05/2011)

Emergency work is one of the most addicting occupations I have ever been involved in. After your on the job, rushing to scenes, being the 24/7 safety net, everything else simply does not compare. Organized firefighting is over 2,000 years old, and today we still use some of the same tools and techniques. We fight elements, our battle grounds are your homes, workplaces, or freeways. This is why so many people want to do this job.

I got interested in firefighting at the age of 15. I was researching online and found that Metro Nashville Fire Department had a junior program. So in October of 2004 I  started training, basics of gear, SCBA, ladders, pump operations, CPR, as well as reading Essentials of Firefighting. In January, we competed against other Jr. programs at a Jr. Police and Fire summit at Gatlinburg, TN. Over the next summer, as each member of the group did there own thing, we did no training, so I began to seek out other opportunities to be a firefighter.

Late summer of 2005 I joined Pegram Fire Department. It was the best thing I could have done. I was 16 now, and still considered a Jr. member, but due to the size of Pegram, I was treated like a regular probationary member. Therefore, I attended all trainings, meetings, special events, truck polishing, and any other thing that needed to be done. Before long it was fall, and I worked with Metro Nashville’s program again for the Fire and Ice competition in Gatlinburg. After that competition though, I felt I would gain a lot more from Pegram, so I ended my membership with Metro Nashville.

In January 2006, on my 17th birthday, I remember quite clearly thinking, “I still have one more complete year of wearing that giant yellow “PROBATIONARY” helmet shield!”  But that year was a big year. I was at the station more and more, constantly training. I could run calls if I was at the station, with the rule that I was not allow to go in or on a burning building, otherwise I was fully allowed to run. Early that summer me and a few other firefighters began working towards our FF1 certifications. It was also that summer that tested for Hendersonville Fire Department. I really did not expect to get hired, but thought that it would be a great experience. I passed the written and did the physical. After those two events I ranked 62nd, way out of interview range, but also not to bad considering the 300-500 applicants. In august, I needed a place to live. My chief did a huge favor in letting me stay in the fire house. (we had bunks and full kitchen) Requirements of living there were: run every call while you are there, be in uniform until 20:00hrs, keep the place looking spotless.

So that is pretty much how it went for a while. Go to work, come home, put on uniform, pick up and sweep, run calls, or do training, or meeting, or truck check. I loved it. I got trained in so many different things. Including trains, haz mat, extrication, search and rescue in buildings (lots of that lol), our ‘coffin’ box of wires and a 90 degree corner with a 14 in opening, burn training, vent training, just everything. We constantly trained, we were always training extra for FF1. We had set up a new recruit class system. I trained them on SCBA’s and bunker gear.

We had training on Jan. 9th. It was about 22:30 and Chief was still hanging out doing paper work, so I asked him if I could switch out my shield, and get a pager as my 18th birthday was a only a couple hours away. So after a year and a half I was finally a full fledged member. Life then continued like normal. I think it was March when I got my first real structure fire, it was a Sonic, in Kingston Springs, TN. We had to bump up meetings to get everything done, so we started with training first tuesday, business meeting and truck check off 2nd tuesday, training 3rd thursday, and truck check 4th tuesday. Plus remember I was living there full time, doing all daily cleaning and maintenance. No wonder i start to feel like it was “MY fire house” We also did community events, such as fire safety for elementary schools, and tours of the station.

Fall of 2007 I attended First Responder class with 2 guys from the department. At the time it felt like deep deep stuff. I didnt know anything really about the body, and all the medical calls i have done before I had mostly been a ‘go-fer’ and a ‘lift assistor’. So this was all new to me. It was a great class, we learned a lot. So, Life went on.

It was May of 2008, I quit Pegram Fire, my job, and moved to my home state of Colorado. I moved in with some family in Alamosa, with the hopes of attending college and playing in the mountains. So as soon as I could, I joined Alamosa County Search and Rescue. We started training for survival, grid searching, high/low angle rescues. With my medical training and rock climbing experience I was trained as a High-angle tech, so I’d be the one lowered down to stabilize and secure patients. The problem was that Colorado would not accept my First Responder card, so technically I was non certified. But when I’m one of three who actually have medical training, that sort of technicality doesn’t really matter.

That summer we had a few callouts, rescued a man from about 12,000ft, then recovered a man from about 12,500ft, did some other work for sheriff’s office that cant be named. We continued to train once a month. One of the coolest trainings was the lift ticket class. After that we were allowed to be flown up for insertion in a Flight For Life helicopter.

Late in 2008 I joined Alamosa Fire department. I was a probie again. In 2009 I attended EMT class as well. The Search and Rescue missions slowed down over winter, so all my focus was fire and emt. Alamosa was a lot bigger department than Pegram. It a lot more personnel and apparatus. And while a few of us die hard in Pegram were trying to get FF1, everyone in Alamosa had it. A lot had FF2 and so on. I learned a lot from working with this department. Some of the bigger calls I remember, were large brush fire’s, and a few structures, as wells as crashes when the highways was completely iced over and we had to drive about 15mph.

June 2009 really change the direction I was planning on taking in my life. I had just completed EMT-Basic school. I had no intentions to every go to paramedic school (too much stuff to remember). I was planning on continuing my degree program, keep running on Alamosa Fire, SAR, and try and get on an ambulance company so I could practise EMT, after college, focus on getting hired as a firefighter. Like I said, that was not to be. I was invited to ride along with my near relative, who is a Lt. for Truck 8, Aurora Fire Department. Riding that day was amazing. Seeing what it would be like to work as a full time firefighter really fanned the flames so to speak, it made me want to do it as soon as i could. When I told some firefighters that I planned to get EMT-Intermediate, they told me not to waste my time as it was not recognised in a metro system. But if I had Paramedic, I would have a great shot at getting hired anywhere. It just so happened that Aurora Fire was hiring the next summer, so I had one year.

So then it was a race to Paramedic. As soon as I got home I enrolled in Anatomy & physiology (required) and IV class. That fall I moved to aurora, and started class. Did my hospital clinicals throughout the holidays. All was well, I turned 21, class was fun, exciting and challenging. But in late march, for reasons still unclear to me, I bombed a test. Like so bad you’d thought I had never seen the material before. It dropped my 5 test average down to 78.5%, so I was dropped out of the program. All the time, money, energy, I had put into this was gone. I didnt know what to do.

In the summer of 2010 I joined Calhan Fire Department. I joined mostly because I was missing the service. I had not been on fire dept for almost a year due to being in class. I was not really ready to join. My confidence had been shattered, I was frustrated and bitter. After I could not attend some meetings, and never getting calls while i was out there, I ended my membership. They deserved better than I had to give at the time.

Briefly I held a job as an EMT in the Summit house of Pikes Peak (14,110ft) but that job was especially frustrating and I was looking for anything better. It was mid November when I got hired by Centura Health system and more specifically St. Francis Medical center. I work now in the Emergency Department. Being that this hospital is 2.5 years old, we have not had the time required to be certified as a high level Trauma center. So we get a lot of medical calls while trauma gets diverted to a downtown hospital. (unless of course it walks into the front door, or the patient is crashing and were nearest facility) The hospital system is very different that working in the field. You lose a lot of autonomy. But working with nurses and doctors day in and day out is a tremendous learning expirence. My job entails a lot of EKG’s, IV starts, wound cleaning and dressing, orthopedic splinting, working cardiac arrests, triaging patients, inducting ambulance patients, Foley catheters, assisting with suturing/lumbar punctures, holding down children for procedures, restraining combative patients, legal blood draws for police (DUI), transporting patients, restocking rooms, and precepting emt students.

Right now I am in Group B of the Aurora Fire Departments testing group. Which means I may (likely) get called in this summer to do physical testing, and hopefully interview for the job of Firefighter. So I am preparing for that physically and mentally as much as I can. A co-worker has told me that his department is looking for members of a residency program, where they would pay for you to get a degree, fire science or paramedicine, then most likely offer you full time employment after you finish, and you would live in station and be on shift for atleast 10 days a month. So that sounds very interesting. But early next year El Paso County Search and Rescue is taking on new members. Thus, I am particularly torn on what to do. There is not enough time to do it all. I know that firefighting can lead to a job and that search and rescue cant. But I sure do love wilderness rescue.

I do not know exactly how things will work out in the future, but I am excited by the many prospects and opportunities.

Stay safe out there!

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September 29, 2010 Posted by | Fire/Rescue/EMS | Leave a comment