Two days on, four days off.
Don’t let the average number of 10 working days per month fool you—our Castle Rock firefighters are responsible for being mentally and physically available for all 240 hours of those days. The station houses them in comfort, complete with their own bedrooms while there, but the emergency situations that are prone to happen at any time can leave the bed covers undisturbed.
The stereotypical idea of a firefighter is one of hanging around the station, waiting for an alarm and consuming copious amounts of heavy food. While they do stand ready for an emergency and appreciate the delicious meals that unite them in their shared cause, there’s a little more to it.
These quiet fire soldiers work behind the scenes to reduce fire risk in every way possible—from promoting fire safety around the community to fighting deadly fires. In addition to that, they perform untold good deeds like car seat checks, changing the batteries in fire and carbon monoxide detectors, holding CPR classes, preaching emergency preparedness and giving general physical assistance where needed. And they do it day-in and day-out—largely without the fanfare reserved for the heroes in storybooks. It’s just a part of the job they perform regardless of audience.
At any given time, including every second of the holidays, most of us just spent congregating in good cheer at home with our families, there are 18 to 22 firefighters serving our town at Castle Rock’s four fire stations. They stand by for the town’s protection, foregoing some of the holidays and important dates in their family’s lives for the good of other people they will likely never lay eyes on. This selflessness is the unwritten portion of the oath they take to promote fire safety and keep the public safe from dangers that may fall outside the realm of the spark.
More Than a Dream
Becoming a firefighter is the stuff of dreams for countless children who visualize themselves in the wardrobe of the fire warrior as adults. While it’s a noble endeavor for anyone, one can’t just walk in off the street and apply to be a firefighter. Practical job-related knowledge testing in fire and emergency medical services is wholly necessary, along with successful completion of the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). Candidates must also be currently certified as a basic, intermediate or paramedic EMT in Colorado, with at least a Colorado- or NFPA 1001-compliant certification, depending on the position. Peer and chief interview panels, along with criminal history, employment, driving record and reference checks, and a fit-for-duty physical round out the series of hoops a person must clear to become a firefighter in Castle Rock. But the training doesn’t end there.
Those who prove themselves in the series of required written exams, physical tests and certifications enjoy ongoing training in the same facets of study for the duration of their tenure. Daily, weekly and annual classroom and physical training figure into the schedule for those who accept this way of life, including intense fireground training under realistic conditions at the Fire Training Center, the Public Safety Training Center and around Castle Rock.
Working as a firefighter is so much more than directing water at flames and manning the wheel of the fire engine. The fire stations here in Castle Rock are nothing short of spic and span, reflecting the daily and weekly routine equipment and building maintenance that also comes with the job title. Due to the changed nature of today’s fires, there’s more upkeep than ever before. Modern manmade materials, from clothing to toys and structures, burn faster and hotter than those of yesteryear, rendering maintenance even more crucial than it was before. This increased carcinogen factor prompts the need for all equipment to be cleaned of these poisons after every use.
Physical and Mental Wellness
The career choice of the firefighter is absolutely rewarding, but the pitfalls are very authentic. Occupationally, they suffer higher instances of cancer and cardiovascular disease than the general public, brought on by the severe stress, lack of sleep, exposure to carcinogens and dangerous situations they responsibly signed up for. Barring emergencies, Castle Rock firefighters have an hour of workout time built into their daily schedules to bolster themselves physically, and they keep heart-healthy nutrition in mind during food preparation.
Also changing with the times is the consideration of the mental wellness aspect of the job. Behavioral health issues, including suicide, are also linked to the profession in higher numbers. The CRFD is proud of its new peer support program, certifying ten of their staff so that two people on each shift are available to assist their coworkers. They’ve also developed an environment of sharing between themselves, encouraging the firefighters to discuss the calls that threaten to leave permanent scars.
A psychologist is available for what they can’t forget. In-house psychologist checkups take place on a regular basis, with the incorporation of family nights that help spouses and children understand the effects of this often-dangerous job on their loved ones. Annually, the department pays for up to five visits with a psychologist, recognizing the mental impact on their employees’ chosen way of life—a choice we’re so grateful they’ve made.
Castle Rock firefighters average 18 calls a day, ranging from medical calls to alarms to extinguishing fires. While many of these calls don’t call for continued physical exertion, some of them do, and they can happen at any time of the day or night, lasting for hours and sometimes even days due to catastrophic fires. Firefighting can be an intensely stressful job—both mentally and physically.
Ongoing physical conditioning is a must for firefighters because their jobs demand strong bodies that can endure hours of hard physical activity fighting fires. Because carrying 50 pounds of tool and gear isn’t for the faint of muscle, maintaining a healthy physique is truly vital. Barring emergency situations, each firefighter is allotted an hour per day to workout in the well-equipped gym provided by the department.
Training and Maintenance
Whether it’s the painstaking upkeep of vital equipment or the continuous training requirement, our firefighters fulfill a daily roster of duties outside of their emergency obligations. In addition to ongoing training in the classroom, physical training is also required several times a month, focusing on performing the genuine fireground skills they use in real situations to save the lives of people in Castle Rock.
Delicious, hearty food has always been an important part of the firehouse experience, but today’s stations emphasize that their grub also own some healthy attributes. Everyone buys their own food and gets their turn to serve up their specialties, with special care paid to the prevention of stomach upset on the job. Since cardiovascular issues tend to be on the high side with firefighters, heart-healthy recipes are appreciated.