This story began 8-9 years ago when I was introduced to a new “cadet” at Aiken Public Safety, Fire Division. Cadets were young guys, interested in a career in Public Safety. Most of them wanted to be police officers, but a few were drawn to the firefighting side of the job.
Ryan Senn, who was/is the age of our oldest daughter, was the new cadet and he reminded me of a younger me. He was excited about being in the fire service and was young enough to where he hadn’t started to really mature yet. Ryan was a naturally born firefighter, taking every class he could get into. He built a respectable resume very early.
I used to tell the young guys that if they wanted a career path as a firefighter, our department was not for them and they should start to look elsewhere. Even today, to get promoted in the fire division, you must be a sworn, police officer.
Ryan recalls the time I stopped by the station where he was working and we sat outside that evening, sharing a couple of cigars and talking about his future. I mentioned that I knew the captain of an engine company in Columbia and would he be interested in riding along with him on a shift or two?
Ryan made a good impression on the Captian, now battallion chief, and soon thereafter, applied for the department. Since I was also acquainted with the Training Battalion Chief, I put in a good word for him, but Ryan closed the deal on his own.
He graduated from their academy and worked at various companies around the city, including being an instructor at their “Probie School.” Currently, he is a Chaffauer for Ladder Co 7, in the second Batallion. “7 Truck” as it is known, is the busiest ladder company in the state of South Carolina, responding to over 3,000 alarms a year. The crew of a truck/ladder company is responsible for locating the fire for the engine company and for search and rescue of anyone who may be trapped in the fire.
At the same time, he is taking classes for the upcoming captain’s exam. The captain is the “boss” of the company. He is responsible for the safety of his crew and is always the first in and the last out of a fire. It is a job with no excuses.
I made a point to visit Ryan before moving to Michigan and it took a few attempts because each time I came by, they were out on a call or dispatched on a call as I arrived. Ryan provided me with some CFD shirts and I gave him a few things, including an orange colored caribiner. Back in 1978 when I became an EMT, one of the guys that broke me in on the ambulance gave me two, identical caribiners, but I don’t recall why. Somehow, I had managed not to lose them over all the years and whatever I used them for, I always remembered my partner and friend, Tom Hartman, who died twenty years ago this month. I decided to give one to Ryan to always remind him of our friendship and how proud I am of him.
It is gratifying to know that something you say to a young person can change the path that they are on and a simple introduction can be the first step in their obtaining an otherwise ellusive dream. Occasionally, they listen.
Watch this guy as I see him in a “batmobile” a few years down the road.