Now that the Book is finished, I had one last chance to ride with IRCFR. It was bittersweet because it was one of Toby Turner's last shifts before he retires after serving IRC since 1978 !
The Adventure started around 4:30 pm that Sunday when I was getting ready to head to the Station for dinner and the overnight shift. I got a text from Toby:
"Can you stop and get us 6 eggs for the cornbread when you come this way?"
Happily! In the few short months I have spent with these good people, I have become seriously ATTACHED. I especially love dinnertime, and the fellowship I feel there.
One of the firefighters/medics on duty that night was Kyle Holtzclaw. Kyle is a native of the area and graduated from Sebastian River High School in 2009. He was just hired by IRCFR in January 2014 after serving with Vero Beach Volunteer Fire Department (VBVFD) for two years. I love my hometown of Vero Beach/Indian River County and was thrilled to find out Kyle's family has a long history here.
In the late 1800's, Kyle's family became some of the first early residents of Roseland, which is just up the road from Vero Beach. His Great-Uncle Dell Long was one of "The Real 8" who dove with Mel Fisher! Kyle's Grandfather (his father's father) Clyde Holtzclaw was the Electrical Inspector for IRC and also a fireman for VBVFD. Clyde's name is on the plaque in front of Station 2. Even before he officially joined VBVFD, Clyde would carry a "Plectron" and would hear the fire tones go off and drop everything and head to the fire! Once he ran to a fire in his bedroom slippers! That is dedication! Kyle's Grandmother (his father's mother) was President of the Auxiliary for the VBVFD. Kyle carries his grandfather's VBVFD badge everywhere with him. "It is my good luck charm," says Kyle.
Shortly after dinner, the tones went off and we were off in Engine 1 to a fire alarm at a local nursing home facility. Turns out someone had pulled the alarm. I was struck by the sign at the front of the facility which read, "Your story continues here..." - considering this was my first adventure with them since finishing the book! I took it as a personal sign! :)
After we returned, I began riding with Med 1 (the ambulance), manned by Kyle Holtzclaw and Thomas Schilling. It was an exhausting night, with calls every two hours or so. Overall, I was completely amazed and impressed by their bedside manner. They put everyone at ease, including the panicked family members, which definitely helped de-escalate each emergency. At 9:05 pm we had a call to help a young man with a head injury. At 10:20 we responded to a man in his 30's having chest pains. At 2:20 am, we had a call for an elderly lady having seizures. At 4:20 am, an elderly man was not breathing. When I left the next morning, I was completely exhausted and it took me two days to recover. I am GRATEFUL there are people like Thomas and Kyle who are willing to take on this type of work. What would we do as a society if no one was willing to do this? I am humbled and thankful.
From November 2013 to January 2014, I had the rare chance to become 'part of the crew' as a photographer and journalist with IRC Fire Rescue over the course of four months, and I put a book together about it called MY ADVENTURE WITH INDIAN RIVER FIRE RESCUE.