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It was only the second mile of a local 5K that I had, in a rare burst of fitness optimism, signed up for -- yet I was already engaged in the mental gymnastics that would enable me to justify slowing my run to a walk.
"This course just has too many hills," I rationalized at about the same time I clocked a dad a few yards ahead of me cheerfully encouraging a young girl, who appeared to be his daughter, to keep running.
His motivation was infectious. I took a deep breath and leaned into the uphill climb. Drawing equal to the adorable father-daughter duo I recognized the supportive father.
"Geoff ... Cornish," I panted. "What ... are you ... doing here?" The question was rhetorical, 5K small talk, if you will. Because if I had to wager which colleague would sign up for a weekend 5K with his daughter, Cornish would be the first pick. He is just that kind of guy.
Geoffrey Cornish is a senior on-air meteorologist at AccuWeather. When asked to describe their colleague in one word, coworkers, unsurprisingly, offered terms like "jovial," "cheerful" and "affable." If, like the rest of the nation, you've developed a deep, abiding affinity for the ebullient Ted Lasso, the fictitious small-time American football coach hired to coach a professional football club in England who is the title character of the hit AppleTV+ series, then you have a pretty solid idea of the unrelenting effervescence of Geoff Cornish. Cornish is the Ted Lasso of AccuWeather.
AccuWeather meteorologist and volunteer firefighter, Geoff Cornish, heads out on another call. (AccuWeather / Trisha Gates)
When he isn't running races or tracking severe weather, hurricanes and snowstorms, and then broadcasting crucial information for millions of viewers, Cornish works as a volunteer firefighter for the Alpha Volunteer Fire Company in Central Pennsylvania. He happily agreed to let AccuWeather tag along on one of his shifts to find out what a day in the life of a volunteer firefighter is like.
As Cornish strode around the firehouse, showing off equipment and explaining the nuts and bolts of the job, he told AccuWeather's Trisha Gates that firefighting runs in the family.
"I grew up as a young kid with my dad as an assistant chief, and then as a fire chief back home in the Philadelphia suburbs. So growing up around the firehouse, it was a comfortable place," Cornish said.
While most of his job as a meteorologist involves predicting the weather, Cornish revels in the unpredictability of a shift at the firehouse. "I wear a fire pager and it goes off about 1,300 times a year," he revealed. "I never know when my pager might go off. And the exciting thing is I could be doing a shift sleeping here at night and three minutes after being asleep, we're on the way to a working structure fire."
When he isn't forecasting storms and broadcasting important information for millions of AccuWeather viewers, Geoffrey Cornish is a volunteer firefighter for Alpha Volunteer Fire Company in State College, Pennsylvania. (AccuWeather / Trisha Gates)
He explained that he's been at it long enough that part of firefighting ends up becoming predictable, especially as the different seasons roll around. "We frequently go on garage and shed fires on that first nice Saturday in the spring because people have fired up their rototiller that they haven't run and probably haven't maintained in the past year or two and put it back in the woodshed. An hour later, they come out from dinner, and their shed's on fire."
Cornish said he often is questioned about the role weather plays in the fire service, but it goes way beyond what people generally expect. "I think in our mind we think of brush fires and wildfires and a lot of seasonality tied to that. Two of our five biggest structure fires the past few years came from lightning strikes."
Weather can have dramatic influences on firefighting and, as a meteorologist, Cornish ends up experiencing both sides of extreme weather events. For example, he might be broadcasting for hours one night, explaining how a snowstorm moving into a region will affect residents, and then the next day he will be riding to dozens of calls that are a direct result of that weather event. And not all calls require him to go put out flames.
"We get a snowfall, we may have 60 to 120 calls in a couple of days that are all related to that weather event," Emergency Management Coordinator Shawn Kauffman told AccuWeather.
Cornish monitoring tropical development at AccuWeather headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.
But that's exactly how Cornish likes it. He appears to delight in helping people and making a positive impact on their lives, whether in his capacity as a meteorologist who is broadcasting life-saving information or struggling his way into heavy firefighter gear to speed to the next call.
"On a practical level, you can help people on the worst day of their lives, and you are called to a lot of times when it's just an inconvenience for them, but sometimes it's far worse than that," he reflected.
Cornish has seen and experienced a lot during his extensive firefighting career. While many might assume huge structure fires are the most intimidating, he told AccuWeather much of the effort on the scene of those fires is spent battling flames from the outside.
"The most intimidating fires can sometimes be less newsworthy, where you are on the first crew of two or three people into a house or apartment fire, and every second counts but you're working in challenging conditions with smoke, heat, very poor visibility, and unfamiliar surroundings," Cornish explained. "Those experiences are exciting and rewarding but also stressful in the moment."
Firefighters are responsible for a lot more than just putting out fires. They are routinely on the scene of vehicle accidents and other emergency scenarios that occur, often as a result of severe weather. Cornish, who has responded to numerous fatal vehicle accidents, explained that they can result in fire hazards due to ruptured fuel tanks or hazardous materials.
Many fire trucks have extrication equipment and firefighters are skilled at using special tools to help free people who are trapped in their cars after an accident. Some are also trained as EMTs and paramedics to treat injuries in emergency situations.
Cornish waves goodbye to AccuWeather cameras as he heads out on another call. (AccuWeather / Trisha Gates)
When asked two final questions Cornish noted his answers are "consistently disappointing." He went on to explain that his fire company has three stations, adding, "but unfortunately none of them have poles," he said with a laugh. " We don't have a fire dog, although I did grow up with a Dalmatian named Sparky!"
On that crisp fall Saturday, hundreds watched as Cornish and his daughter, tired but smiling, crossed the race finish-line together. It came as no surprise when he was awarded a medal for coming in third place in his age division. Being a father is a large part of what inspires him as a volunteer firefighter and drives him to help people in general, he later told AccuWeather.
"If you like to help other people, if you care about other people -- and I see that differently now as a father, I have two young kids of my own -- there are situations where if I can't be there, we would certainly want somebody to be there to help them out," he said.
Click here to follow Geoff Cornish on Twitter.
Reporting by Trisha Gates.
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