5 questions ... for Jim Reuther
He is the fire chief of the Jamestown Fire Department.
1. What interested you in working at the Jamestown Fire Department?
Actually, I had no interest in working at the fire department. My plans were to go into law enforcement many years ago. But while I was waiting to get into the law enforcement academy, my brother called to me and wanted to know if I was interested in being a volunteer firefighter. At that time there were openings to join JFD, so I decided to give it a try. I found myself liking what I was doing as a firefighter and being able to work with a great group of firefighters. So here I am after 32-plus years and continuing to love what I do for others in their time of need.
I still stand by how I was raised and what my mom stated to me while she was dying from cancer. “Take care of others. There will be a time when others take care of you.”
2. What education prepared you for working in the Fire Department?
I had no training before starting in the fire service. All my training was in house, during incidents, regional fire schools, state fire schools and the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD. I have attended the National Fire Academy nine times; each course was two weeks long. The classes consisted of designing new training programs, fire investigation, fire service challenges and managing your department. I have at this time over 3,000 training hours logged.
3. Who would you say was a mentor to you when you began your career in the Fire Department and why?
I have had many mentors in my fire service career, from the beginning and still to this day I have mentor/s. The late Chief Bert Gray and Deputy Chief Gerald "Jerry" Kainz taught me so many things to help me get to where I am today, I can’t thank them enough for having trust in me.
Today, every one of my firefighters is my mentor. I keep learning from them to help our department be the best it can be and to better protect our community.
4. What has changed most in firefighting since you began your career?
Protecting firefighters from injuries and from all types of exposure through the use of technology and improved personal protective equipment.
Better gear, better tactics, increased knowledge of fire behavior and an understanding of the link between firefighting and physical and mental wellness has helped to create a safer work environment.
Embracing and using the technology, wearing PPE properly, adopting and following standards, implementing best practices and ensuring the correct protocols are being used and reduce firefighter cancers and deaths.
Putting water on the fire has not changed from years ago; what has changed is the materials that burn and the tools and equipment used in the response.
5. What is a misconception about working in firefighting?
That firefighters have a lot of time on their hands during their shift at work because they are not responding to calls all the time. We hear at times, “What do you do all day, wait for the bell to ring?” When we are not responding to a call, there is cleaning of trucks and station. Maintaining fire apparatus, to make sure it’s ready to respond to an incident. Training firefighters to meet firefighting standards; vehicle driving operations, fire ground operations, proper way to use tools and safely use them. Firefighter training is non-stop, there are always new types of training and continued education to keep to the standards. Educating the public on fire safety and showing them how to use a fire extinguisher. Fire code enforcement, check for deficiencies to prevent a fire throughout the community. And yes, there are all types of paperwork that need to be done, from incident reports, to fire investigation reports and monthly reports; the paperwork never ends. But we do take scheduled breaks together as time allows.