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September 29, 2013

A day in the life of city firefighters

Plattsburgh City Department firefighters have learned to anticipate the worst.

Photographer Gabe Dickens and I spent a recent Saturday with the department’s Platoon 3 at Station 1 on Cornelia Street.

After briefing, washing the fire trucks and tidying up the firehouse, as the department usually does on Saturdays, the seven firefighters ate lunch together in the small break room of the firehouse.

“It’s not like an office job, where everything is the same every single day,” firefighter Jim Ackerman said. “With this job, every day is different.”

“They put a lot of faith in us to be there quick in their emergency,” firefighter Jaime Schwartz said, reflecting on his favorite part of the job. “Every emergency, somebody here in the city has is their worst day, so they call us, and it feels good to be able to help them.”

Schwartz’s father was a firefighter for 25 years in New York City.

“I’ve heard stories about it all my life,” he said. “This has always been what I wanted to do.”

“Apparently, in kindergarten, that was my answer to what I wanted to be when I grew up,” firefighter James St. Dennis said.

Some of Schwartz’s fellow firefighters were more reluctant to share how they became interested in the emergency-services field.

“We don’t talk a lot about what we do,” firefighter Tim Clark said. “We just do.”

‘CAN’T LET GUARD DOWN’

Perhaps that’s because most of them have seen things the general public would rather not.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Cory Crahan, senior firefighter and acting lieutenant, recalling one of two calls that stand out in his mind as being the most horrifying. “It was a car fire with an occupant inside, and he died in the fire.

“I was on for a fire where we had confirmed entrapment,” Crahan said, referencing a fire on Court Street about five years ago.

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