Jan. 16—QUINCY — Firefighters and EMTs have the chance to help people out in trying times, and Jim Kling said that was something that attracted him to firefighting, and kept him in it over a 34-year career.
"We get called when people have bad days," he said. "If you enjoy helping the community and the people in the community, it's the perfect job for you."
Kling retired Jan. 1 from his job as assistant chief and fire marshal for Grant County Fire District 3. He joined GCFD 3 as a volunteer in 1988 and became a part of the paid staff in July 1996.
He was working for the city of Quincy, he said, when a friend asked him about volunteering for the fire department.
"I checked it out, liked it, and went on from there," he said.
Firefighters and EMTs have to be ready for anything when they leave the station, and in the Quincy area that can be a lot of different things. Kling said the excitement and variety also are part of the appeal.
"I think you have to be a little bit of an adrenaline junkie," he said Jan. 10. "Every time the pager goes off, it's not the same thing every time. This morning (GCFD 3) had an MVA, which is a motor vehicle accident. You might go to a brush fire, you might go to a structure fire — it's just all kinds of different things."
Interstate 90 runs through the district, and Quincy is in the middle of the only route from the south to travel to and from Wenatchee.
"We've got three highways — no, four. (State Routes) 28, 283, 281 and I-90. That's why we get quite a few accidents," Kling said.
Quincy is a rail route too, and people get in trouble even when they're on foot.
"I've been on three or four different train wrecks," he said. "We go to all kinds of things. Cliff climbing accidents — you know, they're down there climbing the cliffs down at the old Vantage highway, and sometimes it doesn't work out well for them."
It's a demanding job too; Kling was one of a small number of GCFC 3 personnel who worked what he called the duty shift, which requires the firefighter to be on call 24 hours a day for a week.
"Seven days, seven nights in a row, 24 hours. Anytime anything gets paged out anywhere in our district, you are responsible for it. You're in charge of it," he said.
In a rural fire district like GCFD 3, the next call could involve a friend or family member, or at least someone the firefighters know.
"That's the only sad thing about it — you know these people, for the most part," Kling said.
The challenges mean that firefighters have to be committed to the job, he said.
"If you don't enjoy it, you're not going to last very long," he said. "I mean, when you're on duty you have to go, so that means a lot of times you miss out on birthdays and all kinds of different functions. But that's all part of the job."
The fire marshal's job involved something entirely different.
"I did the plan reviews. I did all the testing on all the new facilities," he said. "I did hydrant testing for George, Quincy, Sunland and Crescent Bar. Fuel line testing, fuel tank testing, fire alarm testing, sprinkler testing. So there's a bunch of tests that go along with it."
Things changed over 34 years — fire trucks and ambulances, and the equipment they carried, evolved over time.
"I think CPR (techniques) have changed three or four times since I've been in the service," he said.
Fire crews have to keep up, and that means training — a lot of it.
"If you don't like school, you don't like being in the fire service, because you're always going to classes and getting certified, taking tests and all that good stuff," he said.
In fact, one of the lessons he would pass on to possible recruits to the fire service is that continuing education will be a big part of it.
"You still have a drill every week, and you go to outside classes," he said. "So you have to enjoy further education."
Kling said he liked it all.
"I just absolutely enjoyed every minute of it," he said. "Absolutely. You don't just sit at your desk and know what you've got to do. Something different every day."
Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.