Behind The Mask is a new Firehouse Table column devoted to firefighters, showcasing them as individuals within the realm of firefighting. Why do we do this job? What motivates us? Who are we when the mask comes off? From veterans to probies, it promises to give a little insight into our world and the people who do the job every day.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Firefighter Paul Russell Jr and just five minutes into our questions we knew he ate, slept and breathed being a firefighter.
Paul has been full time firefighter in Warren, Massachusetts for 9 years and an on-call volunteer for the Town of Ware, Massachusetts for 14 years. He's married to his wife Crystal and a proud father of his two children Timmy and Lexie.
Paul Russell Jr.
Firefighter / EMT
360° ▸ Why is this the best job in the world?
Paul: It's very rewarding. My son Timmy thinks it's the coolest thing that his dad is a firefighter. He loves when I run out the door, turn on my red lights and go to a call. I'm actually asking him right now... he says,
Photo Kimm Ring
December 31, 2009 | Main St - Ware, MA
"Me as a nozzle man. This one is upsetting to me knowing that someone died while we tried to save them. Upon arrival there was a report of a person trapped and we tried to make a push through the front door, the building was fully involved, we were evacuated, and it was too late."
July 2014 | Warren, MA
"This is inside an old 30' in diameter, 15' deep well a baby deer fell into. Residents walking by heard an animal in distress and called our police and they notified us. We dispatched an engine, set up a ground ladder and down we went into the well. We secured the deer with a tarp and carried it out with a blanket. We released the little guy and it ran away with no troubles... that call made us all feel pretty good."
Paul's wife Crystal and kids, Timmy and Lexie.
"It's awesome when dad gets to use a hose line or when he gets to drive a fire truck."
Also, receiving thanks from people I've never met for answering a simple alarm that was accidental. Meeting new people. Plus, lets not forget that adrenaline rush... every firefighter enjoys it when a call comes in.
360° ▸ Tell us about your first structure fire...
Paul: It was in January of 2000, my very first day of our recruit class and we had just arrived at the local elementary school for hydrant training. The weather was in the negative digits and even colder with the wind chill. We had done a couple of cycles of dressing and taking down hydrants when the station called our drill incident commander and advised that they were receiving calls for a structure fire on Route 9 just past Fisherdick Rd. From the school, all thirteen recruits and about five officers piled into the trucks and began responding.
While responding we received word that it was a working fire and the building was rolling. We arrived and found an early 1900's farm house heavily involved. All the recruits were told to stand by and wait for orders.
Firefighters started to arrive by this time and began to stretch lines to the building. Five of the probational firefighters were second generation firefighters and we were all chomping at the bit to do something. Well, we got our wish that day and we were told to get on a line and start putting "the wet stuff on the red stuff". It was a dream come true, we got to work next to our fathers on a fire scene and it was great.
Sadly, the building was a total loss. We were FROZEN to the bone, and it was an extremely long first day. Once we arrived back at the station to clean up and repack hose, we all noticed that our gear had frozen and was standing up on its own. Like I said it was pretty cold!
We all went home for the night cold and sore. The next morning we all arrived back at the station for round two of hydrants, in soaked gear, and continued to learn the insane art of firefighting.
360° ▸ What tools do you reach for the most?
Paul: I would say a halligan bar or a TNT tool. And, the piece of equipment I enjoy using the most is a Scott Air Pack. In my opinion, if you can't use a SCBA you're going to have a really tough time being a firefighter.
360° ▸ Favorite part of the job?
Paul: Working with kids, it's always a fun thing! The photo below was at a Lowes home sprinkler demo in Ware, MA. I was teaching the kids how a small sprinkler helps extinguish or keep a structure fire at bay.
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