I remember it like it was yesterday. On July 3, I opened the door to the bathroom/laundry room in my home and was stunned to have a wall of smoke pour out of the small room. Nothing prepares you for that moment when you believe that your house is on fire – not even being a trained firefighter, emergency responder, or a qualified emergency preparedness instructor who has taught a couple hundred classes on how to properly use a fire extinguisher. At that moment, my stomach sank and some panic set in.
Luckily, that wall of smoke turned out to be from something isolated inside the washer/dryer and was probably out before I opened the bathroom door. However, before that fact was evident, there was the call to 911 and the arrival of volunteer firefighters and trucks from several companies in Salem County.
I stood out of the way watching the firefighters do what they do and was reminded of my respect, pride and affection for these guys. My husband and I have had the privilege of being part of that “brotherhood” for our entire lives. They are our family. There was no doubt that we were in the best of hands.
Watching a group of them going above and beyond the job description- hauling the washer and dryer out of our house- I thought, not only are we lucky to have some of the best volunteers in New Jersey on the Salem County companies, but we are also fortunate that some of them are highly trained career firefighters at PSEG Nuclear Generating Station.
At this point in my life, I do more support work in the department than suiting up. Firefighting is truly for the young and strong. In recent years, I have developed quite a passion for emergency response photography. What I saw in my kitchen was something I would often see in my photos of emergency response scenes – the PSEG Nuclear Fire Department tee shirt under the volunteer department turnout gear suspenders. No matter where I went in the counties around the plant, I would see it. I have seen that shirt at fires, wrecks, ambulance calls, hazmat calls and at many training activities.
The PSEG Nuclear Generating Station Fire Department (Salem and Hope Creek) recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Formed in 1984, the department is made up of 42 firefighters. According to the department records, at one time 100 percent of those members served in volunteer departments in their communities, and today 75 percent of them do. Of their current roster, 18 of them are active or retired volunteer chief level officers.
The training and routine experiences that a firefighter gains on the job at PSEG Nuclear can be invaluable to local fire companies. According to Fire Protection Program Superintendent John Carlin, “PSEG Nuclear firefighters are exposed to things that most local fire departments don’t see. Their training in fire, emergency medical services, rescue, hazmat, confined space and industrial processes is extensive.” And because our firefighters represent so many local New Jersey communities, their opportunities to create a network on the job allows them to learn what is going on in each other’s departments, share their experiences, and take home what they learn from each other.
As I watched the guys working in my kitchen, I saw the PSFD tee shirt and recognized that two of the guys standing in my house had the benefit of the extensive training provided by PSEG Nuclear Fire Protection. I felt lucky to live in a community where these guys work and volunteer. They are passionate and dedicated to what they do – on the job and in their home departments. If they happen to be in the group of firefighters that show up at your house when you dial 911, you are getting some of the best of the best.
See the more on this story at NJ.com
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Emergency Preparedness Technical Analyst, PSEG
B.J. has been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for 22 years and a volunteer firefighter for 13 years. She is a firefighter instructor with the Salem County Fire Academy and prior to working at PSEG, was the Operations and Training Officer for the Salem County Department of Emergency Services.