Blowin’ Smoke with Daniel Horton

blowin'smokeheaderhortonMy name is Daniel Horton. I’m 29 years old and have served 5 years as a Firefighter/EMT-B for the NSA Crane Fire Department and have served 13 years with the Marion Township Rural Volunteer Fire Department in Mitchell, Indiana. There I hold the rank of Lieutenant. I’m married to my wonderful, supportive wife, Sarah, and have a step-son Markus, 3 and a newborn son, Jeremy.

How many years have you served in the fire service, and has/is anyone else in your family on the job?

I’ve been active for 13 years, mostly as volunteer, but I’ve been around it all my life. My father is also on the same volunteer department and has been for the last 30+ years.

What was your drive to make you want to join the fire service?

Daniel and his father.

Daniel and his father.

As I said, my father Pete is on the same volunteer department as I am and seeing the job over the years; the satisfaction of the job, the ability to help people, and the camaraderie in the firehouse really made me want to be a part of the fire service. Years ago, my dad took me to the headquarters at the City of Bedford and while there, we were given a tour of the station. Walking in the dayroom and seeing all the guys hanging out and how they interacted with me really stuck with me. I knew I had to be a part of that culture.

Is there any distinct way that you have tried to make a difference to either the fire service as a whole or the community you serve?

On the volunteer side, I’ve taken over the annual fire prevention programs at our area preschools and daycares. My dad had previously taken care of it all but due to a new job; he wasn’t able to do it anymore. I really love being able to go around and interact with the kids, teach them about fire safety, and see the looks on their faces when they look at the truck. If my programs save just ONE person, that’ll show me that I have made a difference.

Do you currently have any specific personal goals you would like to accomplish during your career, and have you completed any of those already?

When I joined the fire service as a Junior Firefighter at the age of 16, I wanted to take it to the career level. Now that I’ve accomplished that, I would eventually like to make it to an officer level position.

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

The biggest change I’ve witnessed is the increased training/response to terrorist acts. When I joined 13 years ago, it was about a year and a half before 9/11. Terrorism wasn’t hardly on the radar. Nowadays you’ve got to train on CBRN, NIMS, HazMat, etc. It’s much more involved these days than just fire/EMS.

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

To me, it’s a tie between staffing and funding. You can recruit all you want but if you can’t retain the members you recruit, it’s pointless. You also have to have the funding to equip your department to be ready. Unfortunately, there are many elected officials out there that will make cuts to the fire department before making a cut to the plans for a new golf course, for instance. That, in turn, forces us to do more with less. Sometimes with sub-par equipment.

Daniel and his wife on their wedding day.

Daniel and his wife on their wedding day.

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

If it weren’t for the Brothers in the houses, my family, and my friends, I would never have made it through the dark times and the dark times to come. It’s good to know that I can turn to any one of them and talk something over with them and maybe clear my head.

With so many of our firefighters dying each year in the Line of Duty, what are some of the things you do to help ensure “Everyone Goes Home”?

While on scene, I keep an eye on those that I’m tasked with as well as anyone else around me. I’ve got to make sure that everyone operates in a safe manner while also being aggressive enough to get the job done. It can be a very fine line to walk.

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

LEARN, LEARN, LEARN! TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN! Soak up all the knowledge you can. The minute you stop learning, the minute you stop training is the minute that you’re doing yourself, your department, and your community no favors.

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

horton2Nothing alleged here! We had a guy who was transferring to another base. On one of his last nights on our shift, a few of us got together and went out to his station. We managed to pop the screen off his outside window and proceeded to fill his room up with balloons. Most balloons were just air, some had flour in them, some had water in them, but only ONE of them had the key to his pickup truck in it. When he opened his bedroom door, balloons spilled into the hallway and he had to go through and pop every last one of them to find his truck key. He was a notorious prankster on our department so it was nice to pull one over on him!