By Brianna Hastings
What does it mean to be a firefighter? Kid Stuff Reporter Brianna Hastings asks Chief Justin Hastings, her father and the fire chief of the Grantham Volunteer Fire Department in Grantham, N.H.
1. How long have you been a firefighter?
I joined the Grantham Fire Department the July of 2000. So, for about 19 years. I have been the chief for about a year and a half.
2. If someone wanted to be a firefighter, what type of training would they need to go through? Do you need a degree?
There are multiple ways to become a firefighter. You can either be a volunteer firefighter or a full-time firefighter. To become a volunteer firefighter, you would apply to a volunteer fire department. They would help send you through level 1 fire fighting through the state, or they would help you through level 1 modules of the volunteer fire department. To become a full-time firefighter, a full-time fire department would put out an ad that would say that they are hiring full-time firefighters. That ad will have certain requirements, you would have to be a level 1 firefighter, a level 2 firefighter, an EMT basic, EMT A (advanced) or a paramedic. To be a level 1 firefighter, you have to go through a 212-hour course, covering the basics of firefighting. You don’t have to get a degree, but often people going into the fire service get an associates degree in fire science. They would go through a program like the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Laconia.
3. What is your favorite part of firefighting history?
My favorite part of firefighting history is the evolution of safety devices that help firefighters do their job better and safer. Tools started where firefighters go into a fire with nothing but a leather jacket and boots. Now, they go in with self-breathing devices, helping to prevent diseases like cancer in firefighters.
4. So I have heard a lot about the firefighter brotherhood. What is that?
The brotherhood is a bond that emergency personnel have, because we are put in situations that can be dramatic and life-threatening. The brotherhood is a mutual respect between each other, that we always have each other’s back, that we take care of each other whether it be in a fire or in our personal lives.
5. How did 9/11 affect your life?
It reinforced the decision I had made years before to become a firefighter. First responders take an oath to protect and serve our communities and that is exactly what the first responders did in 9/11. They put their own lives aside to help people in need, and I can’t think of any more honorable way to live your life than to offer to give it up to protect another.
6. How does being a firefighter help the community?
The main responsibility of the fire department is to educate the community to help prevent accidents, injuries and fires.
7. How often do you actually go into houses and put out fires?
Actual fire calls probably account for under 5 percent of all of our calls.
8. How many hours would you say that you have to work at the fire station?
I work about 15 hours a week doing administrative work, meaning call entries, calls, budget, studying laws, reports, mutual aid meetings and hazmat meetings. I do about 2 ½ hours a week of training and, depending on call volume, anywhere from an hour to five hours a week for actual calls.
9. Where did you train and get your degree?
While I was in high school, I attended the Hartford (Vt.) Area Career and Technology Center where I did the public safety service program consisting of police/fire/EMS training. When I got out of high school, I went to New Hampshire Technical Institute for an associate’s degree in fire science. While I was getting my degree, I lived at the Alton, N.H., fire station as a live-in student. While there I got my basic EMT, my level 1 firefighter, and my commercial driving license. I furthered my training and got my level 2 firefighter.
10. In your opinion what is the most important trait a firefighter must have?
I don’t believe that there is one trait that could answer that. I think that they should have compassion, be humble and be brave.
Brianna Hastings is a student at Lebanon Middle School. She loves music and skiing with her family. When she gets older, she wants to be a journalist or an interpreter.