Heroes Among Us; Dave Harrington, Firefighter
REXBURG, Idaho – At a brisk 6 a.m., dark streaks of red and orange tease the dim morning sky. Streets are bare. The loudest noise is high chirping of awakened birds. A refreshing, new day has yet to begin for some. This is not the case at Madison County Fire Department.
Entering through two narrow doors, Dave Harrington, Firefighter II and EMT basic, is geared and ready to start a 12 hour shift at the local firehouse in downtown Rexburg. At age 25, life as a firefighter is nothing new for this Brigham Young University-Idaho college student. Dave has been hard at work in the firefighting field for nearly nine years.
Dave’s close friend, Celeste Roberts, said, “Dave genuinely loves his job. He loves to help people, so going to work each day doesn’t feel like work to him. He looks at it as an opportunity to serve and help those in need.”
His day-to-day routine at the fire station is consistent, but the calls are always spur of the moment and all firefighters must be ready when on call.
As Dave starts his daily routine, the team of firefighters gathers around for “table talk”. Here, incoming and outgoing workers exchange “Knox box” keys, required to stay at the station. These keys are essential to have when a call comes. With little time to waste, Dave and his co-workers can unlock boxes at any given building, therein holding all-access keys to that location.
The comradeship can be felt as the team discusses daily goals to check all equipment and review reports and new/routine training.
“I always enjoy working with Dave,” said Eric VanGenderen, co-worker, “He brings a new viewpoint to the table. He is actually the one who taught me fire essentials and is the reason I am here today.”
Growing up, Dave wanted to be either a cop or a superhero. With a cheap comic book and fervent aspirations to someday be a crime-stopping agent, Dave sparked a flame within himself that he had no desire to extinguish.
As a young boy, Dave grew up with his mom, aunt and uncle in the small town of Rogersville, Missouri. Within his own family, service was ingrained from adolescence being surrounded by civil servants and military occupations. Dave’s uncles were all firefighters, and the red lights and echoing sirens of the trucks inspired him. His desire to be of service to his community in a purely heroic and selfless manner was only one factor that determined his future.
When Dave was in high school, he started up a wood-burning stove in his basement. Too much wood put into the stove caused flames to burst through the stove pipe. After turning out a light, Dave noticed the mistake and frantically called 911.
Fire personnel arrived shortly with a couple of fire trucks and handled the situation quickly. Dave noticed that one of the firefighters dressed in fire, or turn-out, gear was a boy he knew from school. This intrigued Dave to investigate the fire department further.
Dave dived deep into the pool of fire training and courses required. After 40 short hours of training, Dave’s first call came on the radio. His captain ordered him to get into the truck. Heart racing, Dave hopped up in the giant 12-ton fire truck, gear ready, mind racing. One turn of the key and the truck came to life. Headphones on to block out the white noise, Dave rode shotgun in the newly polished, red fire truck. Sirens blared as the truck sped through town, going only the allotted 10 miles over the limit.
In that moment, Dave gained a sense of nobility and super-hero like feeling that he had been searching for, a sense of fulfillment.
According to Occupational Outlook Handbook on bls.gov, becoming a firefighter requires intense training and passing of several exams, along with a probationary period after acceptance. Intensity of evaluations includes the PAT (Physical Ability Test), which determines physical strength and mental endurance of a potential firefighter.
Regardless of the hour or day, when a call comes, firefighters respond. Risk of death is high, and this is not atask for those feign of heart. Firefighters are expected to work an average of 50 hours per week, on call, according to the United States Fire Administration.
At the start of these long hour days, Dave heads with the crew to the south side of the building to fulfill the morning ritual of checking fire trucks and ambulances. Chainsaws motor up while Dave and a couple of other men in dark blue uniforms check the engine’s fuel, oil, windshield fluid, water pump, and an overall inspection of the vehicles.
The ambulances are located on the north side of the building, where the sun is peeking through in the early hours of the morning. Here, the white and red vehicles are checked for fully-stocked medical and human airway supplies, as well as the life pack 12, a portable heart defibrillator/computer convenient for taking pictures of victim’s hearts at the scene of an accident.
“Basically, we can do most things an ER can do. If a victim is in cardiac arrest, we will stay on scene for 20-30 minutes to perform ALS protocol. Most people don’t know why we are taking so long, but this saves many lives. Some people see an ambulance as a taxi service to the ER,” said Dave.
“Dave works hard to put himself in a position where he can make firefighting his livelihood,” Matt Byrne, Lieutenant, said, “He’s both the nuts and bolts, the tradition of the fire service.”
A certified EMT, Dave copies any call that comes through and hops into his white EMT car to meet the fire truck on scene, if he is on an ambulance shift.
“I still get excited every time the alarm goes off and I get called. My heart starts pounding as I gear up and load into the trucks,” said Dave.
His love for people and the safety of his community motivates Dave to constantly be on his watch and be ready for any need, anytime. No matter the call or the hour, Dave is a full-time hero.