The image of a firefighter automatically brings to mind burning buildings, fire engines and turnout gear.

In Maysville, firefighters do more than just put out fires. They're also EMS responders, the station cleanup crew and anything else that needs to be done.

While many people can start their Monday morning work shifts slowly, with a cup of coffee or by checking emails and messages, the Maysville Fire Department starts the beginning of its 24-hour Monday shift, at 7 a.m., with a frantic call about someone stuck in an elevator.

Firefighters Ian Riggins and TJ Warder responded to the call in one of the ambulances.

"The guy who called was frantic," Warder said. "Said a woman was trapped in an elevator. She was out before we even arrived."

Riggins said calls like that are not uncommon.

"Some days you don't get anything and other days you get nothing but EMS calls," he said. "We might run all day long or we may be at the station all day. It just varies."

After their first call of the morning, Riggins and Warder checked each ambulance and engine to make sure all the necessary equipment was on board and all air packs were filled.

While checking the air packs, a high-pitched alarm sounded, echoing off the walls of the bay.

"It's a little loud," Warder said. "When we have this pack on, it has a signal that knows if we're stationary or moving. If we're not moving, after so many seconds, it will sound to alert others that we need help."

Once checklists were complete, everyone departed the station to go to the training building, where testing is held for new recruits.

The building once held exercise equipment, break rooms and a testing area for the department. However, heavy rains in July flooded the building, leaving only the upstairs testing rooms available until it can be renovated.

"The department is working on the insurance in order to renovate the building," Warder said.

Riggins and Warder were joined by firefighters Emmanuel Jolly and Mark Mains, from the department's Station Two. Eventually, Capt. Mark Smith and Lt. Greg Hughes also joined them. The group immediately begin sweeping, mopping and preparing the testing center for new recruits.

"A lot of people don't realize all of the things we have to do," Warder said. "We're firefighters, EMS, maintenance, cleanup crew -- basically anything that needs to be done."

As the men work to clean the building, they discuss the misconceptions about the fire department.

"One of the biggest complaints we hear about the department is having the vehicles with us when we go to lunch," Emmanuel said. "People will say, 'well, why don't you leave the vehicle at the department and come back to get it?' That's not possible. If you get a call, you need to be right there when it happens. You don't have time to go back to get the vehicle, get suited up and go on the call."

Hughes expressed similar sentiments.

"We don't have a choice but to take them with us," he said. "When you're on shift here, you have to eat and sleep just like everyone else. We spend a lot of time here; we're away from our families for a quite a bit of time. It's not like your typical job."

The firefighters said there are always complaints about the department not responding fast enough, but there is a required response time.

Mains said the department requirement is to be dressed and out the door within two minutes when a call is received.

"So you can't leave the vehicle behind," he said. "When we go to lunch, we're still on call."

After the cleaning was finished, the group went to lunch, but just as Riggins and Warder were walking into the building to eat, they received a call for a medical transport.

"This is what we were talking about," Warder said. "You never know when you'll receive a call."

It takes about 15 minutes to make the transport. Once they were finished, the men were finally able to eat lunch.

After lunch, stations 1 and 2 joined together to complete search and rescue training.

Two men were sent to bring around a fire truck, while two others were sent to enter the building through the bottom with the fire hose and two were sent up a ladder to spray the top floor.

"This is a third-floor search and rescue," Smith said. "I want two of you with the truck, two up the ladder and two going in through the bottom with the hose. Spray each floor until you get to the top."

The turnout gear takes a lot of practice to learn to put on. On the first try, it isn't easy as you have to put on the boots and pants at the same time, pull the suspenders over the shoulder, put on the coat, mask, hat and gloves. The gear alone weighs roughly 60 pounds. Once the air pack is added, a firefighter is carrying around 90 pounds on their body as they enter a building.

As the captain sounds his radio, Riggins and Warder grab the water hose and enter through the first floor. They spray each floor as they go, dragging the hose along the metal staircase in the darkened room. The building smells of damp mold as they ascend.

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Warder is also carrying an ax.

As they reach the third floor, Smith's voice came over the radio.

"You have a fire breaking out on the first floor," he said. "You can't come back down. Go out the window and down the ladder."

Riggins and Warder descend the ladder, the ax still in Warder's hands. They move with precision and swiftness until every man is accounted for outside the building.

There is no time to talk once the building is cleared. Another emergency transport comes over the radio. Riggins and Warder have to respond to a house in downtown Maysville. A woman is having chest pains.

They drive the ambulance, sirens blaring, at a high enough speed to show it is an emergency, but not fast enough to be dangerous. Most vehicles move out of the way, while Riggins has to pass by others.

"They probably didn't know we were even there until we passed down," Warder said. "Some people don't realize we're behind them."

They turn off the sirens as the ambulance approaches the apartment building. Inside, they discuss options with the woman having chest pains. They assess the problems and everyone decides she does not need to be transported.

Returning to the vehicle, Riggins and Warder put their gear inside and return to Station 1.

"You get calls where people don't need to be transported sometimes," Warder said. "Sometimes you get serious calls and you need multiple people to respond. When there is an accident, the first thing we find out is how many people are involved. If it's two vehicles, you know there are at least two people involved."

Riggins and Warder await their next call at the fire station. Their shift ends at 7 the following morning.

"It's a 24-hour shift," Warder said.

"You work 24 on and 48 off," Riggins said. "You can work up to 60 hours, which some of us have done, but when you do, you're required to take at least 12 hours off."

"It's a tough job," Smith said. "Working that many hours will wear you down."


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