BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — What does it take for Birmingham firefighters to respond to your emergencies? CBS 42 News found out when Chief Photographer Toby Carter and Art Franklin spent an overnight shift with Birmingham Fire Station 20.
Their overnight, 12 hour assignment with Birmingham Fire Station 20 began with instruction on the protective equipment that keeps firefighters safe. Captain Kenneth Harwell showed Art what it takes to wear the 45 to 65 pounds of firefighting gear.
In less than an hour after their arrival and as the American Flag is being lowered outside, inside dispatch is already glaring.
“Doesn’t take long for fighters to get a call, go from being in the station, grab their gear,” Art said. “That takes about a minute 30 seconds and [they’ll] be on their truck headed to an emergency.”
For these first responders, every call is dangerous even en route to their destination because drivers don’t always pull to the right.
“By nature we’re going to try to go to the left, so if we’re coming behind you if you can move to the right to give us room that’s where we want to go,” said Chief Bearden. “But when in doubt whatever direction we’re pointed, point the other direction and that’s just enough room to let us by.”
Once they got to a scene during the assignment, Birmingham police keep watch as paramedics Brandon Lewis and Dominique Adams give medical attention to a 15-year-old who says someone shot his fingers off. Within minutes that teenager is inside a rescue unit and on his way to Children’s of Alabama.
On the next call, paramedics treat a man run over by a speeding car as he rode his bike.
“This white car came from the same direction and he just plowed into him,” said an eyewitness. “He swerved back out after hitting him with it and he took off. He didn’t hesitate; he didn’t stop.” Neither did the calls.
Of the nearly 50,000 calls Birmingham firefighters answer each year, about 80 percent of them have nothing to do with fires, but that doesn’t keep them from responding.
“We’re always there to help, I hope that everyone realizes that,” said Stephon Cook. “We’re always here to help.”
For these firefighters, this job is real.
“I’ve never done anything else, firefighting is all I know,” said Chief Bearden. “I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m going to be here for a good long time. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else now.”
During their overnight assignment with Station 20, it was clear those firefighters take their jobs very seriously. Luckily, when you work together for 24 hours at a time on your shift, you develop a brotherhood that allows for some laughter from time to time.
One thing is clear: the 650 firefighters of Birmingham Fire and Rescue are there when you need them most.