“BE PREPARED, BE PROFESSIONAL, BE SAFE, BE NICE”
That’s the creed put forth from the Globe Fire Department (GFD), one of the busiest single house departments in the state. With 17 career firefighters & up to 15 reserves, GFD handled nearly 2000 calls in the past year.
80% of them are medical calls. GFD keeps two paramedics on duty each shift. There are approximately 250-300 fire responses in a year, covering a broad range of building, car and false alarms, of which there are many. There are the odd calls too. Someone is stuck in a swing, on the roof, in the back of a garbage truck. There’s a cat on a telephone pole.
“We’re not here to judge your emergency,” says Captain Kendall Cormack. “We’re here to help.”
GFD is an all-hazards department. During the summer months, they rescue 3-4 rattlesnakes from frantic home dwellers, engage a bee vacuum for threatening swarms and handle about 5-6 technical rescue calls during the years, mainly cars driving off the road.
“Our goal is to be the best that we can at anything we’re doing,” says Chief Gary Robinson.
He’s been fighting fires in Globe for 22 years and served as Fire Chief for the past seven. Gary says he misses being on the truck, but according to Captain Kendall Cormack, he responds to more calls than anyone in the department.
“We’re constantly working to make sure our personnel have the training and equipment in order to meet the needs of the community — fire related or medical related,” says Chief Robinson.
Several on his team took an advanced swiftwater course to learn about boat operations, and rope systems.
“You think you know how to swim, but you can’t swim!” Kendall Cormack exclaims. “You need to read channels, read debris in the water, read the situation. Do I need to be in the water? Do I need ropes?”
Kendall Cormack has been with GFD for 15 years. A graduate of Miami High, he started his career with the U.S. Forest Service and was a Hot Shot with Globe Ranger District. He caught the fire bug early – the feeling of facing a wall of fire, heart going crazy, scared and excited and working hard.
“Once you get it, it’s hard to get rid of it,” says Kendall. “You just enjoy it.”
He got his Fire Science degree from Central Arizona College and was recruited by then chief Al Gameros. Today he is one of three captains and supervises a team of five including himself. The hardest part of his job, he says, is managing the down time and getting all the in-station and training activities done.
“It’s easy to motivate a guy to respond to a structure fire or help someone with a broken leg,” he says.
GFD will soon advertise for reserves. Local high school students can earn their certifications necessary to become a reserve firefighter in one year through CVIT programs.
Shift-ready firefighters must also have a basic EMT certification, a semester long course. Paramedics have 1100-1500 hours of training. Full-time personnel are required to have basic wildland firefighter certifications and FEMA courses as well. Captains or shift supervisors have additional training in tactical operations – offensive or defensive attacks and accounting for personnel. How to keep the fire from spreading.
In all positions, Captain Cormack points out, it helps to know how to do laundry and use a mop.
Cooperation and clear command are key to firefighting. GFD and Tri-City Fire operate under an auto-aide system, empowering them to serve the entire community, not just the citizens of one city or fire district. The command structure, for firefighting operations, adapted from the military, is a huge aid to the safety and effectiveness of fire operations.
“A system for management predetermines how the leadership will work,” explains Chief Robinson. “It functions very well.”
All GFD wildland training is done with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). They often respond together to highway incidents. GFD also cooperates with the AZ Dept of Forestry and responds to fires all over the western United States.
Plans for a new firehouse on Ash St. are moving forward. Conceptual plans call for deeper bays and a two-story building with co-ed facilities (GFD currently has one female shift-ready reserve).
“The Living space will better accommodate a larger crew as we grow and expand,” says Chief Robinson.
The fleet is also expanding. The new Type 3 (a wildland urban interface vehicle) purchased by the city is expected to be put in service in the next month or two.
“We have a very good safety record,” says Chief Robinson. “We don’t see a lot of injuries.”
One of his top priorities is to reduce exposure to cancer-causing toxins. Research has correlated an increase in cancer among firefighters to the chemicals produced when synthetics burn. Gary has personally lost three colleagues to cancer. A big reason for pushing for a new facility is all the exhaust is in the bay. Current living quarters are above the bay and there is no system for dealing with the exhaust.
“We’ve done some things to date and with the new station we’ll accomplish a lot of the other things we need to meet the goals we have,” says Chief Robinson.
As we are entering the wildland season, Chief Robinson and his team encourage everyone’s efforts to reduce fuel in and around their house, against their house, in the gutters. Make your house firewise. Especially those that live on the edge of town. If you plan to burn, get your burn permits.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NISH) reports that it takes only 5 minutes for a living room fire to reach flashover (the point at which everything ignites) due to the synthetics, laminates and glue in modern furnishings.
“You’ve got to have a working smoke detector,” says Chief Robinson. “It’s critical to survivability.”
“The public puts a huge trust into us,” says Kendall Cormack. “That trust is like a savings account. We slowly build it up. But if we do something that looks bad, it’s a huge withdrawal.”
In general, people display appreciation for GFD and the city council is supportive. Still, the job can take a toll. People who work in public safety, explains Kendall Cormack, live in a heightened state of awareness for potential harm. Cortisol goes up and down.
“You could be asleep and you get a call for a structural fire,” says Kendall, “this can mess with the emotional self.”
Then there’s sleep deprivation. 90% of local firefighters have a second job to support themselves. On his shift, Kendall says, come the “worst of the worst calls” – the Jammerz mass shooting. A child’s murder. His own father’s death.
Through their union, Globe firefighters have access to Firestrong, a network of masters level counselors trained in fire service culture. Captain Cormack recommends it for all firefighters, every year.
A traveler, Patti Daley came to Globe in 2016 to face the heat, follow love, and find desert treasure. She writes in many formats and records travel scraps and other musings at daleywriting.com.