Real Experiences: The Journey of Becoming a Volunteer Firefighter
Becoming a volunteer firefighter is a huge adventure—that is evident when you talk to anyone who is part of the company. Come along with us and let us take you through the process, from the perspective of those who have experienced it—our most recent class of recruits and your future teammates when you join the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company!
For many people it starts as a kid—a kid with a dream of becoming a firefighter. Perhaps you didn’t follow that career path, but the door hasn’t closed yet! “I grew up interested in joining fire or police, and was motivated now by the opportunity to give back to the community and learn new skills,” says Doug, Global Commercial Director by day and volunteer firefighter by day and night.
“Ever since I was young, I had a dream of becoming a firefighter. Although I am a bit older and exceed the age limit of many departments, that strong desire was still there,” says Richard Arehart. “Becoming a Glen Ellyn firefighter allowed me to accomplish my dream while at the same time serving and giving back to the community.”
For some, it started with just a nudge and the knowledge that the opportunity exists in Glen Ellyn. “I received a postcard in the mail. It seemed very intriguing to help people, learn new skills and tools, and add in some excitement and adventure,” says Jeffrey.
And it can be a welcome surprise for many who have always dreamed of this pursuit. “I work in healthcare and started my career in emergency medicine,” says Michelle Calvario, who is a nurse practitioner. “Fire was always something I was around but never thought I would get the chance to pursue. Right after moving to Glen Ellyn, my husband and I were amazed to find out that we had a volunteer fire department. We love learning new skills and challenging ourselves and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so while getting involved in our new community.”
The first step.
It all starts by taking that first step to learn more and find out if this is the right fit for you. A great place to start is at an open house or Meet and Greet. “I first learned about the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company on Facebook after seeing an ad posting about a Monday Drill Night Meet and Greet,” says Matt. “I went to see what it was all about, and couldn’t wait to go back the next week. The team atmosphere, the dedication, motivation, and genuine care that each member has for our fellow neighbors drew me in, big time!”
You can also visit for a Monday night training to see what it’s like. “We have people from all different backgrounds and would love to meet you and show you what we do,” says Michelle Calvario. “Hope to see you soon!”
Once you start learning more, a lot can draw you in. “I have had an urge to serve the community in a material and impactful way that truly can have a positive impact,” says Dave Roscich. “I think it’s important to set an example of service for my children, my family and the young people that I know that they can and should look for opportunities to serve their community.”
You don’t need to bring anything but your time and commitment—all of the education and training you need is provided for you. “Training is involved but the best part is the knowledge that the officers pass down to you,” says Brian. “They have pride in their job and want to make sure you do as well. I have made many mistakes, but we train on the same subject several times to make sure we get it right.” One stand-out training memory for Ruden is the burn tower for the first time. “I’ll always remember the thick smoke and feeling the heat of an actual fire.”
It is a challenge, but you have an amazing team behind you to support you through it. “It’s difficult but everyone has your back. Everyone has gone through it and is there to see you succeed,” says Steven.
This challenge is universally seen as your opportunity to surprise yourself. “One major reward is to learn skills and push yourself in areas you never thought you could do,” says Doug.
“Training is my favorite part of the week, and it’s rare in adult life that you get to see yourself make slow but steady progress in a skill,” says Joseph Kimball. “Some things are physical, some things are intellectual, and most are a combination of the two.”
The first call.
You’ll have many calls, but perhaps the first one will stand out the strongest. “I will never forget that first call,” says Richard Arehart. “We were sitting in the radio room when a CO call came in. One of the firefighters said, ‘Go get your gear, we’re going.’ The next thing I know, we were flying down the street with lights and siren going on a call. I had no idea what I was doing but felt like a firefighter and they explained everything that was happening as it was taking place.”
And more calls.
No call is the same, and all are an opportunity to give back to the community. Jeffrey Clemmons remembers some standout moments he wouldn’t have experienced otherwise: “Moving a charged line, smashing through a bathroom wall with ‘the pig,’ learning to drive the engine, navigating the SCBA maze while blind, venting a roof and window.”
No volunteer does the work for the recognition, but it is a rewarding and remarkable experience none-the-less. Families support their volunteer firefighters in big ways. “My family is very proud of my volunteer work,” says Brian Ruden.
And the support from the public is remarkable as well. This was one of the things that surprised Jeffery Clemmons. “The appreciation and respect firefighters get from the public—I had never really thought about it before but it was a surprise and so rewarding to have someone just thank you for your service just because you volunteer.”
“You will reap the rewards and reputation of the firefighters who came before you and have a chance to build upon that legacy,” says Joseph Kimball.
Are you ready to take that first step? Jeffrey Clemmons offers you these three top reasons to go for it:
- You give back to your community and help others in their time of need.
- You get to do amazing things and learn how to use some awesome tools.
- You can develop real lifelong friendships.
And Sebastian Rodriguez Lancome says, “Sometimes you need to step forward and just do it. This is not impossible and it requires commitment. The satisfaction that comes later proves that it is worthwhile.”
Ready to start your volunteer firefighting adventure? The biggest recruitment event of the year is right around the corner, there for you to get your questions answered to see if you can make that first step! RSVP for the Open House today!