Patrick Ryan – Volunteer Firefighter
Assistant to the Attorney General. Husband. Volunteer Firefighter.
Patrick Ryan has been a lot of things in his life—newspaper photographer, navy reserve member, and currently is Senior Assistant to the Attorney General. Two years ago at the age of 52, when his wife Kelli became a village trustee, he decided he wanted to add one more thing to his resume. “I knew my wife would have a lot of time commitments and decided to find something productive and meaningful for my time,” says Patrick. When Kelli learned that the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Department was looking for more recruits, he decided to learn more.
“I went to the Monday night meet and greets to see how everything operated. I was hooked,” says Patrick. He joined and in January 2021 came off probation. “I absolutely love it,” says Patrick. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. I want to keep doing it until my body tells me I can’t do it anymore. I wish I had started this 10 years ago.”
He has really enjoyed the process of learning and training, and has learned a lot about himself. “We did our formal training on Sundays and Mondays. We learned what the tools were, and how to use them, and basic operations firefighter training—we learned how to raise a ladder, how to use airpacks in an enclosed situation, and wore blackout masks to feel our way through a scene,” says Patrick. “You learn a lot about yourself doing this and what you are capable of. I got myself through it. I feel physically and mentally stronger for being able to do this.”
“You learn a lot about yourself doing this and what you are capable of… I feel physically and mentally stronger for being able to do this.” ~ Patrick Ryan
Patrick also loves that every call is different and gives him the chance to put his training to use in new ways—it adds interest and excitement to the volunteer role. “On your way to any call, you have some information about the situation, but you are aware that anything can happen. You are driving there and you have to be ready to do anything,” says Patrick. “You listen to the dispatchers, and at the scene officers tell you what you will do—then they say, ‘Let’s go to work.’ You prepare for the job, but you have to be ready to use the tools to get the job done and solve the problem. Eliminate the hazard. I just love it.”
He’ll always remember the experience of his first structure fire. On a quiet Sunday evening watching sports at home, Patrick’s pager went off alerting him of a potential major structure fire. “Sometimes structure fires are minor, but I knew this one was big as I drove to the station. On my way, I could hear the ambulances, see the smoke. It was a serious working fire,” says Patrick. “My adrenaline was going. We got into the station, pulled on the gear, and listened to the lieutenant giving the orders. We train for this. I knew what my job was. We worked to put the fire out and were there until two in the morning.”
“I was hyper aware of everything that was happening. Everything seemed so heightened, but my training kicked in,” says Patrick. “It was the first time putting the skills I’ve learned to use. Everyone was doing their job. It was terrible that the building was on fire, but it was an unbelievable experience. Since it was the first time, it will stick in my mind.”
But the best part of being a volunteer firefighter, for Patrick, is helping people in their time of need. “On their worst day, we are there to help them—whether it’s medical, an accident, or a fire. Someone is in distress, and at 3 in the morning, they call for help and we show up. We work as a team to size up the issue and figure it out. It’s immensely satisfying and meaningful.”
“I love doing this. It’s one of the most meaningful and gratifying things I’ve ever done. I love what I’m learning about myself. This is our town, and we are going to protect it.” ~ Patrick Ryan
Patrick’s top three reasons to volunteer:
Civic pride. This is your town. You are here to protect it. You are helping someone on their worst day right here in town. It could be your neighbor. “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” is completely to the point and completely correct.
You get to learn a great skill. The training leads to a professional state certification. You don’t have to pay for it, besides time—blood, sweat, tears, and occasional bruises. They provide training, hands-on practicals on weekends, and every time you go on a call you learn more, too.
It is incredibly rewarding. You get to be there for someone on their worst day and help solve their problem. That is immensely gratifying.