Blowin’ Smoke with Paul Gillespie

This week’s Blowin’ Smoke is from one of our followers on The “Model City” Firefighter’s Facebook Fan page.

My name is Paul Gillespie, I have been serving with the Marion Twp Fire Department for 18 years, currently serving as Captain. I have also been serving with the NSA Crane Naval Facility as a Firefighter/EMT for 10 years.


How many years have you served in the fire service?

18 years on Marion Two fire and 10 with NSA Crane Fire Department.

Why did you join the fire service?

I have 2 uncles in my family in the fire service, so I grew up around it.  I’m also old enough to remember the show Emergency, which inspired a lot of young kids to become firefighters.

Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference?

Firefighters make a difference every day. Not many professions make the decision to go to work at a job they may not return home from.

Have you accomplished any specific personal goals during your career?

I was a volunteer learning and studying to get certifications that would help me become a paid firefighter. It took 8 years, but I finally got there at the age of 30.

What is the biggest change that you have witnessed since joining the fire service?

The increased training in terrorist attacks, and requirements in training for everyday operations

What do you believe is the biggest challenge that the fire service faces today?

Recruitment in volunteer and paid alike. With time constraints on families, there isn’t much time to volunteer. With paid, its more of a budget. With the Countries economy in the tank, firefighters, police and EMS providers seem to be the first ones cities think they can live without. The problem with that is they expect the same amount of service they got before the cuts.

What is the best firehouse prank that you might have “allegedly” been involved in throughout your career?

It was a quiet night around midnight when two loud car horns start going off inside the station…under a firefighters bunk. The car horns were screwed to a piece of 2×4, wired into a car charger, plugged into an outlet timer, and plugged into a power strip. The timer set for midnight, and it worked perfect. Of course, we had to scrape the firefighter off of the ceiling after it went off.

During your many years on the job, how were you able to push through the darkest of times?

TALK! Talk to your fellow firefighters. I had a bad call where I was performing CPR all the way to the hospital on a newborn that had been involved in an MVA. I took a day off from work, and in those days off, I received several texts and calls from my fellow firefighters who weren’t there. They were asking to talk, have a beer, hangout, etc. Talking it out helped. Nobody understands firefighters like firefighters.

If you could provide some of the younger generation of firefighters with a few “words of wisdom,” what would they be?

Study all the complicated stuff, but don’t forget to become a professional at the basics. At the base of our operations is search and rescue. Learn to search a structure on fire til you can do it in your sleep, and then practice it some more. Get in, find the victim, and get out. Practice with rope, with a partner, by yourself, and with an entire team. A one man search is not optimal or the safest, but it is if it is only you standing between them and death. Become a master of the basics before you decide to try to master all the other technical details that this job has to offer.

Stay low and stay safe!

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