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When everything changed for me as a firefighter

Everyone knows firefighters don’t get older, they get better


(Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Billy Galvin

It makes me laugh when I think about how my department has changed as time has passed.

When I first got on the job, the department was mostly made up of younger members. We attacked vacant dwelling fires without caution; we lived in the moment from one fire to the next. Making a good stop was all that mattered and it was us against the world. As time passes by and life takes you down its many twisting paths, one day you wake up and say, “Holy S#@t! Where did the time go?”

I know exactly when things changed for me. It was Feb. 4, 2006.

I got lost in a pair of big brown eyes and haven’t been the same since. A year later, I had a wife. I remember thinking, it’s not just me anymore. I got someone counting on me to come home. It didn’t change me that much. It just put more chips on the table, that’s all.

In many ways, my wife has made me a better firefighter. She has seen me at my best and picked me up at my worst. She has always made me want to be a better person, and I think that makes us better at the job as well.

Just when I got adjusted to married life, another game-changer came with the birth of my baby boy, James.

When I came back from my time off, I thought this baby thing will never change me. Sure enough, first shift back, and we’re making a push on a ripping two-family flat. I must admit, the fight was different from before. I thought about my little boy with every whip of the nozzle.

Is this father thing making me soft?

But the truth was, like being a husband, being a father made me a better firefighter. I still could be aggressive, but now I had to use my head, proceed with caution and make the right calls.

Time went on and I adjusted to wearing the Firefighter, Husband and Father hat. But then here comes another curve ball ... once again I am lost in another pair of big brown eyes and life will certainly never be the same. I now had a daughter. If I wasn’t getting soft already, I probably will be now.

When my daughter, Molly, was born she was in respiratory distress and was placed in the ICU. Never have I felt more helpless than I did in that time. I have a very deep respect for the medics and nurses on the NICU team that transported my daughter. They truly are my family’s heroes.

When I went back to work it made me look at the job a little differently. I got to be the one calling for help and it really put things into perspective. I now had a better understanding of what was at stake for those who call upon us in a time of need.

In many different ways, the people I work with have all changed over time by many different experiences of life. The crazy thing is when the bell hits — even though we all have taken these different paths — we all end up in the same place. We know what it means to do this job, and whether it be family, friendships or events that mold us, we come together for one common goal.

It’s not just about a burned up helmet or making a sweet stop. It’s about the job and doing it to the best of our ability.

Have we changed? Yeah, and I’m sure there‘s more to come. But everyone knows firefighters don’t get older, they get better.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.
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