By Tim Sugrue, 31-Year Professional Fire Fighter in Montgomery County, MD; District Rep., IAFF Local 1664

6 a.m. relieving the previous 24-hour shift. First order of business: check out the equipment: lights, sirens, tires, fuel. We’re in a semi rural suburban area, so a busy day for us might be 10 calls. In denser areas with shopping malls and office buildings a station could average 20 calls a day. We don’t just fight fires; car accidents, heart attacks, household accidents, hazardous materials spills and the occasional cat in at tree keep us on our toes. Everybody thinks we play checkers all day long, but that’s not how it is. In the morning, we’ll do physical training. If we’ve got a rookie on the shift, we might spend some time going over personal safety equipment, or train on a new vehicle. We’ve always got housework to do, routine maintenance on the firehouse. When we have downtime, we do safety education at elementary schools, or visit senior centers to talk about fire safety for the elderly. Our community service doesn’t end when our shift ends, especially around the holidays. Our local has a Thanksgiving food drive, we participate in Toys for Tots. Each station also donates toys for needy families. We have an annual golf tournament to raise money for the Washington Hospital Center’s burn unit and we help the IAFF at the George Meany Center with their annual camp for kids who are burn victims from around the country, give them a tour of D.C.; and, of course, we “fill the boot” for Jerry’s kids every year on Labor Day weekend. Not much time for checkers.