Originally published April 13, 2011
Oscar Salmon, 25, is an navy pilot and also a fireman. It\‘s a high risk, service dedicated job. Oscar shares his experience and tells us about the demands firefighters face today.
Why become a firefighter? Was there any family member, personal drive?
The decision to form part of the Firefighters Corps came as a result from the experience I gained in my first year as officer in the Army. I believe the motivation came from the first day, wanting to do something important for my country, my society, my neighbors.
How was the selection process? What were the requirements?
Well, the main requirement is the will power and determination of knowing you’re doing something you like since you have to leave aside going to beach on weekends or clubbing on a Saturday night like most of your friends. You have more responsibilities and you have to fulfill them.
As far as requirements, the physical part turns out intense due to the trainings or simply all the guard duties in which sleeping can last only two hours having to work the next day as usual.
In order, do you consider yourself firefighter, pilot?
First, I consider myself from the Army, it’s my life really and in which I too, am a fireman. In fact, my first job motivated me to join the Corps of Firefighters or Fire Department?. Now if you ask me which I enjoy the most, my answer would be with no doubt about it, being part of the firefighters. Since you join a fascinating world and meet really good people who don’t expect anything in return, in other words, you gain a family.
Have you suffered any accident from all the exposure?
Luckily, none until this day.
Which has been the most memorable rescue? The hardest?
I’ll always remember the great forest fire we had to control on December 25 in 2007. It was due to a bengal light thrown very near my workplace, in which we carried highly explosive material. It was very interesting since we did not have a nearby water source, the team work was huge. In spite of the lack of resources, after two days, we managed to control the situation.
Is every firefighter a paramedic or is every paramedic a firefighter?
Every firefighter is built with basic knowledge to preserve the life of a patient and transfer him/her to the nearest health center. Once graduated as a fireman you decide in which area to specialize, rescue, hazard materials, firefighting, paramedics, etc.
Do you think the government should include the Firefighters Corps inside the national budget?
I feel there should be a stronger sense of prevention in our country. There needs to be team work among districts and fire companies.
Which is the biggest benefit offered by this job?
The biggest benefit is the satisfaction of doing what you enjoy and gain a family while you’re at it. Another great benefit is the constant training they can offer you.
Did you consider working in another country where this job is payed?
I thought about it but I really had my life settled here and I decided to stay, though if the possibility came along, who knows…
How do you balance this job with being a pilot?
It’s really complicated; they both demand a lot of dedication, doing both at a time is nearly impossible. This is why for the moment I’m dedicating to the training phase of being a pilot, after it’s finished, I intend to return to my company.
How do you manage to have free time, a personal life?
It’s a matter of organizing, without putting your personal life aside. In my case I met my girlfriend being in the company and in the army, she always supports me, always. What’s more, she’s friends with my partners from both institutions.
How many hours does this job imply per week?
This varies between internal rules of each company, in mine (at the beginning) I had to complete 10 hours between Monday and Friday and the mandatory meeting was Saturdays from 3 to 7p.m. One has to obey according to the degree.
What is the age limit for one to join the Corps?
The minimum age is fifteen.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a fireman?
Advantages: doing something for the community…Disadvantages: obviously it’s a risky job and you sacrifice free time.
What stereotype is mostly associated to the job?
That of a person with a lot of willpower and great physical ability, able to pull through in extremely exhausting conditions.
In our society, do you perceive a bigger respect towards firefighters or is it the other way around?
Truthfully it is one of the institutions with most approval.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a firefighter?
To be willing to do it right, ready to become the best, if at any moment they wish to back down, remember what brought them there in the first place and that nothing is eternal, just phases. In the end, all hard times pass and satisfaction remains. A day will come when they look back satisfied with their effort. Strength, moderation and a lot of discipline.