This post originally appeared on the AVFRD The Alternate Channel Blog on 7/22/2014.

Jack Kearns is an Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue firefighter.  Recently, he spent some time with Lauren Mazzatenta talking about his experience with AVFRD.

Jack didn’t grow up in Ashburn and he doesn’t live in Loudoun County. He actually lives in Fairfax County near Chantilly.  While working at the Reston Town Center, Jack met Frank Giglio, an AVFRD volunteer firefighter.  Frank shared his firefighting experience with Jack, and Jack was hooked.  When he considered firefighting, he followed Frank to Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue.  Jack joined AVFRD in September of 2013; and was a part of the VRS class 2013-4.   However, he had talked with Loring Dixon much earlier and had gone on a ride along in February of 2013.  Jack wanted to start immediately, but his schedule didn’t allow it. After finishing his Spring semester, and tying up some other loose ends, Jack was ready to start in the Fall.  He started running with his duty crew in mid-October.

When asked what encouraged him to join AVFRD, Jack said that it was curiosity. When he learned the extent of what Frank did, Jack couldn’t believe that someone he knew actually did those things. But Jack joined with no expectations, no preconceived idea of what the job would be. He ’had nothing to go by in terms of being able to build a mental picture of what it was going to be”.   And he loves it so far!

Lauren asked Jack why he chose firefighting as opposed to EMT.  Jack said that his ultimate goal is to be certified for both, when he has the time to ride for both.  He initially picked fire service because he wanted to ride those calls. He just wanted to go on a fire call.  He wanted to ride a fire apparatus, a fair thing for anyone newly going into volunteer service.  It has that sort of “whoa, people do that?” kind of appeal for Jack, and for anyone new to the company.  However, he plans to attend EMT school after fire school to ultimately be certified in both. For now, Jack feels that fire is still his primary service. 

Jack was also asked what he likes most about volunteering at Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue.  Jack says one thing.  “All clichés aside, it’s the people that I run with, the people who are part of the department.  The people are incredible.  It’s one hundred percent true.  I have the utmost respect for all the crews that have been willing to take me in since day one, being patient with me, showing me the ropes. Someday I will get to slowly pass on the knowledge to the people who come up under me. I really like the culture of learning, the atmosphere of being very aggressive about learning and training, being on top of things and having the attention to detail. It has been an extreme exercise in character building, but a fun one.”  I think Jack nailed his description of what it means to be part of the department.  We are honored to welcome him aboard.

One other thing:  Jack’s tip for rookie success.  “There is a poster, right before you walk out into the bays, as you are going out, with a list of tips written by a member of the FDNY. One of them is for red-hats, or anyone who is new in their time joining the department. It says that you are given two ears, and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.  And I found that to be the truest, most appropriate phrase for being a “probie” here.  You really do learn a lot and I think that the more you listen to people and the more you observe what people do, the more you realize just how much the people you are riding with know.  And I would also say that it is important to be personally aggressive about learning because someone might not necessarily make you train every night.  If you have the kind of personality where you can get complacent, do not do your two minute drills or your thirty second drills, there will come a day when you are going to have to do it. Someone who has been aggressive at practicing – they will be good at it.  Someone who has been complacent will not.  And that is a position that you never want to be in.”  Great advice from Jack.

Fun fact about Jack?  He does not have a background in anything closely related to the fire service.  Before volunteering at Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue, he was a musician in high school.  He was actually planning on becoming a musician as a career; but he found AVFRD and he loves it here!

And, we love having him!