Firefighter Friday: Jack Graham of the Old Forge Fire Department
This week's featured firefighter is Jack Graham of the Old Forge Fire Department. He tells us about the need for young members to join the fire station and how the terrain and tourists can make firefighting in Old Forge a little more tricky.
Jack Graham has been with the Old Forge Fire Department since 1996. In the 70s he joined the Whitesboro Fire Department, then moved up to Inlet and worked at their fire department. In 1974 Jack moved to the Old Forge Fire Department and worked their until '79. That year he became a state trooper so he wasn't a firefighter anymore. He would have stayed one, but there was a reason he couldn't, which he explains in the video (at the top of this page).
We asked Jack to run through a regular, typical day at the station, to which he let out a heavy sigh. That's probably because in the firefighting business, there really isn't a "regular" day. Jack says,
...There's many days were you probably don't even go to a fire. You wait to get called and that can be any time of the night or day, usually it's when you're sleeping...
And they never know how long they're going to be out on a call. Sometimes it's five minutes because it was a false alarm, other times it can be quite a few hours while they deal with an emergency. Jack also mentions that that's only about half the job. After a call they have to clean the vehicles and equipment, fill out reports and paperwork.
We also asked Jack about a memorable moment he's had on the job. Although, we're sure he's had hundreds, we wanted to know what's the one thing that sticks out the most. He told us he could categorize a lot of those memorable moments into one idea: When the person who called, or the person who was in need turns to them and says "thank you."
Jack also had something very important to talk to us about. He wanted to bring attention to the need for firefighters, for new members to join their local fire stations. In the video (above), Jack explains how different it is today in the fire community, compared to 30 or 40 years ago. He added,
80 percent of the firefighters in the United States are volunteer, with 20 percent being paid. And between that amount of time (mentioned above) there is a 15 percent decrease in firefighters.
Jack says they have many programs for young adults and teenagers to be involved in the fire department. By the time they turn 18 and can actually start putting out fires and being more "hands-on" at the station, that's the time most young adults start thinking about or heading off to college. And those who do leave for college, don't always return to the fire house. Actually, a lot of them don't. Many fire stations are losing a lot of people because of this. But they're also losing people because the older generation of firefighters are retiring, or can't do all the things they could do before in their job. He goes on,
We need firefighters. I'm not saying it's drastic, but we got to start thinking outside the box to get people to join the fire department.
Another reason for the changes and less people being involved with their local fire departments could be all the work. There's a lot of training that goes into being a firefighter. And all that training takes up a lot of time, which makes it harder for people to commit to it. But even with all that hard work, it pays off. Jack agrees and says it's very gratifying to help the community and help people. He says at the end of the day, you just feel good about your job and about yourself.
Our cameraman also had a question for Jack about working specifically in Old Forge. He asked if being in the mountains and being in a tourist area gives them any unique obstacles to their job. Jack replied, "yes," and explained that they'll get a lot of calls for water rescues or rescues on Bald Mountain. They'll also get calls for snowmobile emergencies. It definitely gives them more challenges as they try to do their jobs.
For all that Jack has done as a firefighter, as a state trooper, and everything he has done in the community, we're proud to recognize him and feature him on this week's "Firefighter Friday."
Do you know of a firefighter that you think deserves recognition for the job they do? Are you a firefighter, yourself? You can nominate a firefighter to be featured on "Firefighter Friday" by clicking the button below.