Berrien firefighters spend spare time saving lives - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Berrien firefighters spend spare time saving lives

September 24, 2007

Ray City - They often call themselves the South Berrien Strike Team. But others, call them heroes.

They are the firefighters from Ray City and New Lois who spend their time saving others.  "We do structure fires, grass fires, you name it. Automobile accidents," says Ray City Fire Chief Robert Mikell.

So we suited up to see what it's like on the other side of the hose.  "We are going to smoke up the rooms with a smoke machine and what we are going to do is have a scenario when we have someone trapped and go in there, rescue them and pull them out."" says deputy chief Steve Webb.

Their job is exhausting. Crawling around in the smoke with zero visibility and gear that weighs about 80 pounds. I was lucky. This is without the added weight of the water and heat from the fire but they still had to drag me out.

But what's almost as remarkable as their work ethic, this training and heavy lifting is on their own time and self reward is the only pay they get for their hard work and dedication.  "We all actually have regular jobs. We do this, we volunteer to do this," Webb says.

"They've got a great love for being in the fire service. That they are willing to sacrifice they're vacation time to go help those that need to be helped," Mikell adds.

That's right.  Any time they take from work to fight a fire cuts into their vacation days and time they spend training is time away from their families.

But one thought keeps them going.  "A lot of us think, I'd rather be home. But then you have to think again, these people are loosing everything they've got," Webb says.

And knowing while today they are only saving me from heat stroke, tomorrow it could be someone's family, friend or neighbor.

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