To run into blazing buildings, scale ladders and speed down roads in a huge red truck? Well now you can get a little insight being the man behind the fire mask, as we spent a little time chatting to local firefighter Tyler Marion, who’s been a firefighter in Bluffton for two years, and his caption, Scott Cochran, who has 26 years of experience under his belt. You’ll find both of them at Bluffton’s Downtown Station, Station 30 on Burnt Church Road – that is, if they’re not out on a call.
Do you consider this job dangerous?
Cochran: I consider it inherently dangerous. A typical person would think it’s insane to do some of the things we do, but we’re trained to make the danger as minimal as possible. Life safety is first our safety before anyone else.
When you get a call how long do you have to get ready?
Marion: As part of our training we have 60 seconds to be in full gear. At the beginning, it’s extremely difficult. You’re not used to getting dressed that fast, but you practice it enough and learn an easier way to do it and then you get it down really fast. … Last time I did the time drill, I was at about 36 seconds. So you really learn over time how to get it down. We’re on the road in less than a minute.
Have you had any close calls?
Cochran: I’ve done this for 26 years and I haven’t ever had a close call. It’s all according to training. You’re willing to risk a lot to save someone that you’re able to. You’re not going to endanger yourself for something that can’t be saved.
What does it feel like running into a burning building?
Cochran: To be honest, with the amount of training … when put into that stressful position the training almost takes over. We almost have a systematic approach to enter – let me do a right hand search – and we have a lot of tools to help us, whether it be thermal imaging or just physical contact to not get lost. The training we have is to eliminate that fear. It’s all training towards muscle memory, like riding a bicycle. It’s almost automatic.
What’s it like being on call during the holidays?
Marion: It can be kind of tough for the guys that have a family. I don’t have one so I usually volunteer to work for them. I’ll do a swap and I’ll take their holidays so they can spend it with their family. But the community takes care of us. Typically on the big holidays – like Thanksgiving or Christmas – we’ll get a donation of some sort. A dinner donated to us or something like that, people bring in pies and cake for us. The community takes care of us and they make it better for us.
What special things happen around the holidays in a fire station?
Marion: Well we do the Santa truck for about three weeks in December. We ride around different neighborhoods with Santa and we have the lights going, we throw the siren and horn a lot. All of the kids wave at him.
At the station a lot of times, we’ll have a family come in, hang out a little bit, eat dinner. So it’s not as lonely as it could be.
Do you work with the same guys every week?
Marion: We work with the same group of guys for a good length of time. I’ve been with the same group for my stay at 30. There are four firefighters here and we also have two people from Beaufort County EMS that are with us. And it’s really cool because we get to develop this really close relationship, almost like family. We end up hanging out outside of work too.
Cochran: My operator for the engine – my driver – we’ve been together five years. We spend 24 hours together. We eat together, work together and when we’re not working we spend time with each other’s families – hiking, fishing, hanging out. … That’s the way it’s always been, every department, every shift that I’ve been in.
Alongside Marion and Captain Scott Cochran is Senior Firefighter Dustin Brown and Cam Terio. These are just a few of the men that serve Bluffton in relief and aid efforts, sacrificing safety to save those in need of help. We’d like to honor Marion and his fellow comrades and family for all that they’ve done for the community. We cannot say thank you enough.