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At the Curb
Tiger Schmittendorf is the author of “Run to the Curb” — a work-in-progress online book project. My goal is to eventually publish a book of these stories along with some of my insights on recruitment and retention, leadership and the fire service in general.
I consider myself a rookie firefighter with 30 years of experience. That is, I learn something new every day and every day I’m reminded of how much I don’t know (usually by my wife – LOL).
I was a firehouse brat, or what I now call a “Run to the Curb” kind of kid. I spent my entire childhood around the firehouse and never gave up on my dream of being a firefighter. I count my blessings every day that I’ve been fortunate enough to make a career out of it, now having served the Erie County Department of Emergency Services as Deputy Fire Coordinator for more than 10 years.
Firefighting is the best damn job in the world, regardless of whether or not you get paid to do it. I hope to bring my passion and love for the fire service and the brotherhood to light in the stories I tell, and the insights I share herein.
I have the luxury of going around the country meeting and listening to other firefighters, something I take great enjoyment from. I hope to hear your story of how you got started, what drew you to this profession, who influenced you and what keeps you going today.
Who knows, your story may inspire someone else to get involved or may save a fellow firefighter from the brink of burnout, rekindling their flame for what we do.
Either way, we hope you enjoy the stories shared here.
Run to the curb. Read my stories. Tell your story here.
Pingback: I remember my first time… « Run to the Curb
If we take a look at why we are firefighters today, many of us will have a nice story about their dad being involved and taking the kids to the firehouse to see the big red trucks. Some others might tell you they lived just across the street from the firehouse and that they could see and hear every time the trucks go out and rush to the front yard to wave hello to the guys. That they often crossed the street to ask the guys questions about the last call and feel the pride of the team. To some others, it is different. For me, everything started on February 7, 1984.
Before that, my mom would take me to calls where my dad was a public works employee, helping firefighters. I can recall two major events but I was five or six, so the images in my head are backed with the stories told by guys in my department today. The first major incident I recall was a fire at a rehabilitation center and the second was a house fire where a mother and her son were found dead.
But on that February day in 1984 my parents, my three brothers and I lost everything. I came back from school to find my home completely burned down. I remember my mom was waiting for me on the corner of the road. She never did that. I was happy until I found out why.
All of a sudden the quietness of my room, the smell of the kitchen, my parent’s room’s stucco ceiling were gone up in flames. Everything that made that house “MY HOME”, was gone. Only the chimney and the front wall that were made of stone were still standing.
I was seven… I was shocked. We lived in a little village and during the next weeks at school, people were giving me toys, clothes, food — everything to help us out. Of course insurance was there to help us but there are things money can’t replace. We still have a few burned pictures we could retrieve.
There is no question that this event brought me to the fire service. At the age of twelve, my dad was assistant chief and I would often go to the firehouse with him, and running calls either on my bike, or with my mom. I got my first real call at age 16 and I can recall most of it. Actually there were two.
We had a severe thunderstorm and lightning had struck a house. It was quite minor, but while we were picking up our stuff, somebody came to tell us there was another fire at the other end of the town. That one was working. I was assigned to vent the roof. We cut a hole to find another roof, and then a third one. In the end, we had to retreat. It was a total loss.
God, I live with that passion every day for 17 years now! Seventeen years that I’ve been listed on the payroll of my fire department. Seventeen years that I take pride in serving my community the best I can because to me, what matters the most is not the way the bumper shines on the truck. To me the most important thing is that when the tones go, we must do all we can so that people suffer the less possible damage. I sure like to ride lights and sirens, and I sure love to enter a burning building. But I find my pleasure in every call because sometimes, just helping someone calm down, telling them everything is ok makes the difference. That is what I am proud of: making the difference.
Fifteen years after my debut in the fire department, I made one step further in my commitment. Feeling that the only way I could ensure my people a greater service was by becoming an officer. I had greater expectations but I found out I’ve found my place for a few years — I think.
Today I have three kids (Ages 13, 9 and 2), and every time I come back from a call, they question me. I hope I can transfer my passion to them. Maybe my 13-year old girl will give it a shot, but I’m pretty sure my 2-year old son will. Whatever happens, they will always have their father to back them and show them the way and to tell them the stories…
Stay tuned for an edited and updated version of Eric’s story with photos!
Pingback: Running to the Curb — and then the Engine! « Run to the Curb