Braving the blaze together
May 3, 2023
Sirens and bright lights speed down the road. The big red truck is recognizable and respected, but the firefighters sitting inside don’t have an easy job.
Kurt Jacumin has been in the fire service for 33 years, and is now the Battalion Chief of North Mount Pleasant. As the town grows, more and more firefighters are needed to provide life-saving services to citizens. The job itself has its gratifying moments and struggles.
“There’s always going to be something about the job that irritates you, or you don’t have as much patience with, but I find that the people keep me coming back. The work keeps me coming back. It fulfills me to do the job that we do. I love mentoring the younger officers, the younger firefighters that come into the department and it’s just passing something along,” Jacumin said.
Traditionally, firefighters work once every three days, with each shift being 24 hours long. Although that takes away a lot of time from their families and personal time, the job is worth it for them.
“There’s a lot of socialization that goes on in the fire service. You really get to know the people you work with and enjoy their company, and that’s what makes it good for me. I love coming to work just because I love the people I work with,” Jacumin said.
Firefighting isn’t all about stopping fires. They are often called onto various scenes because of their expertise and life-saving training.
“We are the only [Advanced Life Support] provider fire department in the Tri-County area. We have paramedics that ride our trucks, and we’re able to provide the same level of care that an ambulance can provide to someone, outside of transport. The care is exactly the same,” Jacumin said.
For aspiring firefighters, the process is not easy, but attainable. Although a college degree or high school diploma isn’t necessary, one does need to be 18 years old and take some firefighting courses. Additionally, there is a physical exam given by the National Fire Protection Agency, but most training is given on the job.
Hillary Stringer has worked in fire service for nine years, and is now an engineer, meaning that she is able to drive the truck and can provide emergency medical technician services.
“It takes a special person to be willing to … put yourself out there for people and whatever their needs are. It takes a special person to be away from your family as much as you are,” Stringer said.
Volunteer opportunities might be available depending on experience and expertise, and the best way to find out about these opportunities would be by contacting your local fire department to get involved.
Senior Jake Schultz has always wanted to work with the fire service. Over the summer, Wando offered internship opportunities, where students were paired up with companies and industries for internships. After going through the hiring and interviewing process, Schultz was offered a place with the Isle of Palms Fire Department.
“You get a work out on the job, you get to save lives, and you get to be a part of the community,” Shultz said.
As the community expands, more people need the life saving services provided by fire departments throughout the county. For young students who want to make a tangible impact on the people around them, working in fire service could be a rewarding option.
Anthony Petrucci fights fires while also focusing on community outreach events, traveling to different high schools and colleges in the lowcountry to recruit more young people to join the fire service.
“If you’re interested, just give it a shot. We’re currently looking for high schoolers that maybe aren’t interested in going to college and want to join the workforce, we have some young people who left high school and did that. They love their job,” Petrucci said.
Although it is often less thought about compared to other options post-graduation, fire departments provide many opportunities for career and professional development.
“We teach you how to do everything, just be a good person. What we’re looking for is character, good people that will make the town better and drive us forward,” Petrucci said.