Grand Rapids Fire Dept. recruiting for first time since 2011

Posted at 12:03 AM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-06 00:03:21-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- They are the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and for the first time in nearly five years the Grand Rapids Fire Deptartment is recruiting new candidates.

The department is getting ready to fill the gap being left by a wave of retirements expected in the next few years, according to Deputy Chief Kevin Sehlmeyer.

There are currently 10 spots up for grabs, and, Sehlmeyer said, the city has already received more than 600 applications. The deadline to apply is Feb. 16.

Application can be found online here.

Mike Meyers has been a firefighter with the city for 18 years. Often there's a perception gap between what the public thinks a firefighter's job entails and what they actually deal with on a daily basis.

Meyers, along with his fellow firefighters at Engine House No. 1, 38 LaGrave Avenue SE, admit their duty and responsibility is one that isn't taken lightly, and above all it's a calling that few can actually answer. “You feel like you’ve got the weight of everything on you, you’re being crushed by it," he said. "You don’t have a choice to fail. One way or the other, you’ve got to fix it."

But they're quick to say they are not heroes; they're just doing their jobs.

For Lt. Don VanDyke, who's served the city for three decades, it's a job he humbly holds, one that has defined him and given him pride and a sense of purpose.

“We’ve all been very fortunate to get the opportunity to do this," he said. "Not everybody gets that chance."

A crew works 24-hour shifts, three days a week. From sleeping to working out or eating, they spend nearly a third of their lives together on the job, including their highest highs and lowest lows going through a job that is demanding.

“I guess I never really thought about the effects it would on me as a person growing," said Dave Fountain, a firefighter in the city for 16 years. "There’s a lot of stuff that you carry that you don’t realize, because we’ve all experienced a lot of stuff."

But even knowing the worst he's faced down while on duty, Fountain and the others said there's no other job they can imagine doing instead.

“Hey, I don’t know any different" Meyers said. "It’s what you do every day all the time."

“I really like helping people. I like jumping in when everything is going bad in your world and try to make it better."

Candidates go through a four-step process to be hired, including a written test, a physical agility test, a panel interview, and an interview with the fire chief. Then the training process to become a firefighter with the city takes about 16 weeks to complete.