The first responders near you may save your mom or dad's life a few times. And for that, you should thank them in person. Each year the OC Fire Authority holds open houses at dozens of fire stations during Fire Prevention Week, so it's easy to show up, get a tour, and acknowledge their service. It's also a good opportunity to check out how many cliches associated with "firemen" are true. Are they smokin' hot and calendar worthy? Can they cook? Is there a spotty dog? Where's the pole, and will they let you slide down it?
You may be expecting some snarky angle to emerge in this story, but it's not really going to happen. True, these pros are very well paid, but they clearly love their jobs because they love what they do; it just oozes out of them when they are showing off their headquarters. And then there's the willingness to run into burning buildings, an aspect of their natures that plays a big part in their calm, focused miens.
At Station 30 in Dana Point there is no fire pole to slide down, so it's fortuitous the sleeping quarters are just steps away from the engine. For each call, four people must be in their gear and rolling out of the firehouse within 60 seconds: the engineer, who drives; the captain, who navigates and is on communications; and the two fire fighters who sit in back. At the open house, you could see 5-year-olds in plastic red fire hats sitting in those seats with huge grins on their faces. The timing of Fire Prevention Week just before Halloween allows all those boys—and the one girl/tiara-wearing princess seen entering the station—to get souvenir hats to augment their costumes for trick or treating.
As for holding onto that dream of being a real fire fighter some day, it's a tough gig to get. Thousands apply for very few openings. And the process takes well over a year of testing and interviews and various other hoops to pass through to get vetted for the job. Maybe start by being a reserve, which is a voluntary position that gets your foot in the door while you get on-the-job training. Like an internship, a very serious internship.
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It's not clear whether being a good cook helps you get hired on as a fire fighter. Unfortunately, there was no food offered by these legendary fire-fighting chefs at the open house; just a view of their immaculate kitchen with its three refrigerators, one for each shift—which is 48 hours long. The firehouse also has a Barcalounger room for watching TV and debriefings, behind which is the weight room/gym for keeping in shape. Strictly for purposes of staying fit in their heavy gear and hauling people in distress to safety. No sexist Magic Mike XXL references here.
The biggest disappointment, aside from there being no food, was that the Dalmatian is ceramic, not a living, breathing canine. Nevertheless, the pup holds a prime position at the station's front door. Sporting a slightly too small plastic fireman hat, I thanked Hubert and Lopez again for saving my dad years ago, and promised to give the hat to my friend's six-year-old son when he visits in December. They said to bring him by the station for a tour, anytime. I said I would, then went home and changed the batteries in the smoke alarms.