Beyond flames: The brotherhood between two Dover fire stations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cydney Lee
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A young man, dressed in a heavy fire-resistant jacket, sits tensed on a fire truck, poised for action. As the vehicle approaches the scene, he takes in the view. Thick gray smoke billows upward from a small house and bright orange flames lick the roof. His heart pounds in his chest as adrenaline pumps through his body. His fingertips and toes jitter with anticipation. As the truck stops, he’s out the door and on his feet, ready to get the job done.

Airmen from the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department respond to scenes like this approximately 10 times per week. Twenty-five percent of the incidents they respond to are mutual aid agreements with local agencies, including the Dover Fire Department. This partnership between the 436th CES and the Dover Fire Department goes beyond simply responding to the same incidents: it’s a brotherhood.

“Once you’re a firefighter, you’re always a firefighter,” said David Carey, Dover Fire Department fire chief. “We take care of each other. It doesn't matter [what station] you're from.”

The fire stations often train together, completing classroom work and running response and life-saving drills.

Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Kehl, 436th CES fire chief, believes the training helps increase cohesiveness between the stations.

“Training with other agencies provides new skills and offers a chance for our team to teach and train volunteer departments,” said Kehl. “Many friendships have come out of our training and real-world calls with our local partners.”

Carey said his station trains with several agencies in the area, but the majority of joint events are with Dover AFB.

“The more you train together, the more you get to know each other. There becomes that relationship where you know each other's capabilities,” said Carey. “It makes [responding to] the incident flow smoother.”

In addition to training, many 436th CES firefighters also volunteer at the Dover Fire Department. Carey said volunteers are crucial to the manning of the Dover Fire Department, as all civilian fire stations in Kent County are 100 percent volunteers.

“When we recruit a military member, [we know we’re] gaining someone that's responsible. You get that reliability that's instilled in them through the Air Force,” said Carey. “Training [Airmen from the 436th CES fire department] becomes easier because instead of training them from the bottom up, we're training them on [specific station operations].”

Airman 1st Class Timothy Marker, 436th CES firefighter, started volunteer firefighting when he was just 15 years old and currently spends 60 hours a week volunteering at the Dover Fire Department.

Marker said through the time he has spent at both fire stations, he feels as though he is a part of a brotherhood.

“If you're constantly training with the same guys, you start to get closer with them. When we go out to these dangerous calls, there's a form of trust,” said Marker.

Tony Peterson, 436th CES fire captain and Dover Fire Department volunteer, said the brotherhood between stations extends beyond just responding to calls; they can also rely on one another to drop whatever they are doing to help in their personal lives.

“[It’s about] trusting each other even when we’re off duty,” said Peterson. “We learn a lot about each other [which makes it easier] for us to tell if somebody's off mood for the day. That’s the important part of the brotherhood: checking in on each other.”

Whether it is a military firefighter, or a civilian counterpart, those who share the bond know that through the smoke and flames, when they hear the sirens and see blinking red and white lights approaching, their brothers have their back.