May 21, 2021
The fire service and emergency medical services have a longstanding relationship. As the needs of the community evolved, so did the fire service; nowadays, the vast majority of calls firefighters respond to are medical calls. More and more firefighters see the advantages of obtaining their EMT or paramedic certifications. EMS Week is May 16-22 and the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association interviewed a few dual firefighter/EMS providers to highlight their important role in the community.
Joey Campbell, Colleton County Fire Rescue
Where are you from? Ehrhardt, South Carolina.
Where do you work? Battalion Chief and Chief Medical Officer at Colleton County Fire Rescue.
How long have you been in the fire service? 25 years.
How long have you been a paramedic? 24 of those 25 years.
What or who inspired you to become a FF/EMT? I started volunteering in my late high school years and saw it as a career path.
What’s your favorite fire service memory? We’ve done a lot of firsts here. We were the first department in the state to put a firefighter/paramedic on a helicopter.
Strangest call you’ve responded to? I’m not sure if strange is the right word, but too many to count.
Travis Enos, Clemson University Fire & EMS
Marc Smith, Georgetown City Fire
Where are you from? Georgetown, SC
Where do you work? Georgetown City Fire Department
How long have you been in the fire service? 19 years full-time
How long have you been an EMT? 16 years
What or who inspired you to become a FF/EMT? All my buddies from college were volunteering at a local fire department. We would spend hours hanging out with everyone at the firehouse playing pool and ping pong waiting for a call to come in. It was and still is a rewarding job helping people out at their worst time when they need it most. Getting my EMT was just another way to help them out even more and help me in my career.
What’s your favorite fire service memory? My family pinning my rank for my promotion ceremony and while off duty at a football game and one of the visiting team coaches went in to cardiac arrest after the game and my wife performed compressions while I got the AED and shocked him and we brought him back.
Which do you find most challenging – fire calls or medical calls? Why? They all can be challenging from call to call. You never know what type of call you will get next!
Strangest call you’ve responded to? We actually get several calls for cats in a tree; we usually put some cat food or treat at the base of the tree and they climb down.
Rachel Lawson, Allendale County Fire & Rescue
Where are you from? Allendale County, South Carolina.
Where do you volunteer? Allendale County Fire & Rescue, Allendale County Rescue Squad.
How long have you been in the fire service? I’ve been in the fire service 5 years.
How long have you been an EMT? I’ve been an EMT for 6 years.
What or who inspired you to become a firefighter/EMT? Several of the men in my family growing up inspired me to become the firefighter/EMT I am today. My Father, John M. Lawson III, a firefighter/Paramedic; His late father, John M. Lawson II, a firefighter/EMT as well as the City Chief for Allendale in the mid 70’s; My uncle, Rodney Stanley, the late Chief of ACFR.
What’s your favorite fire service memory? My favorite fire service memory would have to be the fellowship between the volunteers. We all have different backgrounds but we come together to provide and protect Allendale county’s citizens and their property.
Which do you find most challenging – fire calls or medical calls? Why? Both types of calls present challenges. No two calls are ever alike. If I had to choose I would say physically Fire calls and emotionally Medical. Although the roles could reverse on any day.
Strangest call you’ve responded to? Every department comes across some strange scenes but in Allendale we have a good number of those that make you scratch your head and wonder how did that happen or why.
Dr. Bobby Ridgeway, Clarendon County Fire/Rescue
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Pinewood in southern Sumter County, but my family roots are in neighboring Clarendon County. Personally I have lived in Clarendon County since 1978 except for 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency training.
Where do you volunteer? In the “early years” I volunteered with Pinewood Fire ( substation of Sumter County Fire). From 1978 to present, I’ve had the pleasure to be associated with Clarendon County Fire/Rescue, many years as a volunteer and most recently as a career staff member.
How long have you been in the Fire Service? Probably longer than most of the current firefighter’s parents have been alive. Actually, around 1972 at the age of 14, is when I started volunteering (there was no age limit back then). I was not allowed to fight fire till I was older but the guys taught me to pump the truck, and that’s a task that I enjoy to this day.
How long have you been a Paramedic? My original certification was in March of 1978, and my number was 211 (I think). My certification lapsed when I went to Medical School and I recertified in 2013-2015. Currently I’m preparing to recertify again through National Registry.
What or who inspired you to become a FF/Paramedic? There’s only one answer to that….GOD. As a Boy Scout, I was unable to assimilate knowledge enough to even obtain a First Aid Merit Badge. He took the impossible to educate soul that I was, and not only molded me into an EMT/Paramedic but later a Registered Nurse, and finally a Physician. He put many influential people in my life at just the right moment. I do believe He’s in the miracle business.
What is your favorite fire service memory? It’s not a specific Fire or EMS call. It’s the privilege of meeting people who have meant so much to the Fire/Rescue Service and pioneered our profession over the years. This list includes people such as Chief Alan Brunacini, Chief Rick Lasky, and James E. O’Donnell who not only was a member of the Indianapolis Fire Department, but was one of the 317 survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS in WWII.
What do you find most challenging – fire calls or medical calls? Why? Because of my background in medicine, it would definitely be a subset of fire calls. Those less than 10 percent of calls usually involving commercial or industrial structure, or some unknown hazardous materials incident would surely be the most challenging. Those are the ones that you train for, but have little on the job experience in mitigating.
Strangest call you’ve responded to? I can truly say that I’ve never been on a call involving exotic animals or alien piloted UFOs. However the Fire/Rescue/EMS service is developed around immediately dealing with abnormal situations that most normal people would describe as strange. These “strange” situations usually seem normal to us, therefore perhaps we are the strange ones.