The Story of a... Firefighter

Seminole County fireman Andy Johnson, 25, has battled flames and fire ants, but he still hasn’t had to rescue a cat from a tree.

Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

Normally I work one day on—a full 24-hour shift—followed by two days off. What I do on my days off depends on whether it’s hunting season. If it is, I’m hunting. If it isn’t, I’m fishing.

I don’t think the average person realizes how much science and problem-solving goes into firefighting. It’s not just mindless work. If you don’t do it right, bad things happen.

I’ve seen the movie Backdraft, but I’ve yet to have a fire peek around the corner and growl at me.

My biggest pet peeve—and most firefighters would agree—are the BS calls we get. Like the people who call just because they want a free ride to the hospital. People abuse the system quite often. That gets real frustrating and tiresome after awhile, because you could be needed for something much more important.

If your house catches fire, call us and get out. There are a lot of synthetic materials in modern homes that complicate things. They can create some really noxious smoke, and if you breathe in a good hit of that, the next thing you know you’re unconscious on the floor.

I haven’t had the cat call yet. But I did have a lieutenant who was really allergic to cats. We had to have a “Code Cat” to let him know when we entered a house with cats in it, so he would stay outside.

We normally eat pretty well at the station. Most of the time you collect five dollars a head for groceries. When it’s your turn to cook, you’ve got to put a good meal together or you’ll never hear the end of it. We had a paella incident that was ungodly. It looked like he used a bag of frozen bait, and no one would touch it. It made the whole station stink. But the guy who cooked actually sat down and ate it. I guess it was a matter of pride, but everyone else gagged watching him.

I study a lot during the down time. Like most guys, I try to earn certifications that make me more valuable to the department.

We have a handful of stations that are two stories and have the brass pole. Sliding down one can be a challenge when it’s 2 in the morning and you’re being woken up from a dead sleep. It’s a lot trickier than you might think. I normally take the stairs.

My most embarrassing moment as a firefighter? That’s easy. We were loading hoses after a call when I started getting eaten alive by fire ants. I was standing on an ant mound and they crawled up my pants. I started dancing around, stripping off my gear, and everyone had a good laugh at that.

I’m getting married in February. We’ve been together for almost five years, so she knows what to expect with the crazy hours and all.
Besides, she’s marrying a fireman. I’m a female fantasy!

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