02/13/14 — Goldsboro FD crews stand ready as snow falls

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Goldsboro FD crews stand ready as snow falls

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 13, 2014 1:46 PM

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Members of the Goldsboro Fire Department sit down for supper. Shifts at the fire station include not only standing ready for calls, but also preparation, training and, of course, some fun, too.

As the city braced to be socked in by ice Wednesday night, the guys at Goldsboro Fire Department Station 1 -- headquarters -- were busy in the kitchen making dinner.

Firefighter Cliff Best and Engineer Ray Wells do most of the cooking for the guys on their shift.

On the menu that night, chicken pastry and homemade hush puppies.

"This crew works well together," Capt. John Gillis said.

Firefighters are a brotherhood like no other fraternity, Gillis said.

"We eat, sleep, train and work together. We are together for 24 hours a shift," he said.

Station 1 houses two crews per shift, a Ladder crew and an engine crew, with a captain over each and a minimum of four men to each vehicle.

At the helm is an assistant chief, to whom the house captain reports.

"That way, if something needs done or isn't getting done, I only have to go to one person," Assistant Chief Frank Sasser said.

Very rarely does something not get done, he said.

Sasser has been with the Goldsboro Fire Department since 1977. He came on a year after Station 1 was built.

"We kind of grew up together," he said.

The station is home to a family, several in fact. Each shift has its own cast of characters, but when a call comes in, the fun and games come to a halt and the trucks roll.

"When it's time to get serious, there is no better group of guys than these," Gillis said.

Sitting down to dinner, Sasser sits at the head of the table and his two captains flank him. The firefighters line either side of the table.

The conversation turns to Duck Dynasty, the A&E reality show about a family of duck call manufacturers. The recent political controversy surrounding the show is left out of the discussion. The history of the show and the preceding DVDs made by the show's stars make up the bulk of the table talk.

One firefighter, Mike Perkins, plans to visit the home base of the Duck Commander and crew in Louisiana sometime around Thanksgiving.

Perkins has the longest tenure of firefighters at the table -- seven years.

Rookie firefighter Brian Davis, enduring all sorts of tongue-in-cheek abuse from his senior brethren, has only been on the job since September 2013.

Between them are a handful of firefighters and engineers with various years of experience and training -- any of whom can be lurking around a corner waiting to pull a prank.

After dinner, in the bay housing the rigs and equipment, Davis gets into his turnout gear to demonstrate a procedure.

Firefighter Brandon Jones slinks by with a bucket. Davis shoots a glance at Jones but continues dressing. Minutes later, from atop the fire engine, as Davis is preparing to open the door to the cab, a cascade of warm water rushes down his back.

He swears he saw it coming.

Jones and fellow firefighter Brad Peele know better. The laughter carries on.

Inside Station 1, between calls, there is time to kill. When not training, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, pulling pranks, cleaning, sleeping in their bunks, and, well, cleaning, there is a gym.

"They get an hour and a half per shift for mandatory exercise. Captains and below do, anyway," Sasser said.

"An hour to work out and a half hour to clean up," he said.

Meanwhile Sasser, Gillis and Capt. Lee Vader and Ray Wells take in a movie -- one of the X-Men and Wolverine franchise.

A cluster of leather recliners make a half moon in front of the television next to heater working overtime Wednesday night.

In full recline and with the lights mostly off, the ring of seniority looks as comfortable as each man might be in his own home. In effect, he is.

No calls came in Wednesday night -- although the crew was ready, just in case.

In addition to the main fire station, there were five other stations throughout the city with full rotations of shifts waiting to be of assistance, just in case.

Although they take taking care of their community seriously, the crews don't mind nights with no runs, they said.

As much as they enjoy their jobs and like to apply their training when needed, no runs means that each of them gets home safe. And that's every firefighter's goal, no matter which station he or she calls home.