On an average day at the fire station, there’s no telling how many calls the crew will respond to — or what those calls will entail. But when a Newton fire/EMS worker reports for duty, there are a few things known.
On an average day at the fire station, there’s no telling how many calls the crew will respond to — or what those calls will entail.But when a Newton fire/EMS worker reports for duty, there are a few things known. The shift will be 24 hours long and will begin with a training exercise. During the shift, there will be chores to do, and if time, some sleep to get. “It’s a balancing act to get everything done,” said battalion chief Scott Metzler.Behind the scenes, all those times when the crew isn’t in bunker gear and saving lives, resembles life in a dorm. There are chores to be done, and a lot of cleaning. Metzler has been a firefighter/paramedic in Newton for 19 years. He’s watched as the firehouse has become a busier place during that time. When he joined the fire/EMS crew, it wasn’t uncommon for the trucks to stay in at night and the crew to get some rest.But no longer. “When I started, three to five calls seemed busy,” Metzler said. “Now a dozen or more isn’t abnormal.”Each call might be the opportunity to save a life — or it could be something as mundane as a cat in a tree.There will be a pair of trainings each shift — the first is a operations or procedural training at the beginning of the shift. The second is a hands-on training elsewhere during the shift. Last week that meant sending a truck and half of a crew to a training session in Sedgwick County. No one really knows what the demands will be on a given day — or even if there will be time to cook dinner if it’s their turn in the rotation. Everyone gets a turn in the kitchen — some crew members are better than others at making dinner. They all, however, seem to be quite adept at making a mess in the kitchen.“We make messes of phenomenal proportions here,” Metzler said. And they clean. Not only the kitchen, either. There’s not really any idle time for the crew to sit in the comfy-looking arm chairs and watch television upstairs. “There’s sweeping and dishes,” Metzler said. “We have to clean our apparatus; if we go out on a medical call we clean up after those.”And there’s paperwork — each call requires reports to be filed. Those reports may be needed later by law enforcement, insurance companies or doctors. Randall McBee, who serves as a fire inspector, knows his way around paperwork. On May 20, he was a great example of life behind the scene at the firehouse. On a break, he went to make coffee. As he waited for a cup of coffee, he explained to visitors why there’s a boat in the garage. “We use that for water rescue,” the 23-year veteran said. “It’s for places like around the dams in Halstead during floods. We have electronics and sonar we can use to find a body in a drowning situation.” The boat is used by a couple of several special teams that are a part of the Fire/EMS department. It comes in handy for water rescue, flood evacuations and water searches.There also are teams trained for heavy rescue and building collapse. And they all train during their shift — each member of the crew works a 24-hour shift, one day on, two days off. If there’s time in the shift, the guys work out on weight machines.On special days, like Thanksgiving, families come by the fire station for a meal — often a potluck. “We have groups of school kids come for tours, and they are all excited about being here,” Metzler said. “Except for our kids. They’ve seen it before.”Crews also go meet kids at the schools — whether that’s providing an end-of-school water party or playing math games with students during the school day. There’s also fire prevention education that involves the 15 crewmen who work at two stations. “We have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives,” Metzler said. “The people who work here are great people, and they all work here for the same reason.”