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breaking news

UPDATE: Tornado watch until 6 a.m.; severe storms still possible

Skip the drama: Why being a Gardens firefighter is nothing like TV


Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Matt Haywood dangled from a second-story window in a tower off Military Trail and Burns Road Wednesday morning, suspended by a thin rope.

The rope was anchored to an ax he shoved into an interior wall before he hoisted himself out the window. Thankfully, this was just a drill.

Haywood was using the training structure at Station 61 on Burns Road to demonstrate how to use new “bailout bags” the city bought with a $43,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The bags, issued to all the firefighters, contain what they need to repel out of an upper story of a burning building if they become trapped.

After the demonstration, two others took turns exiting from the window, using different anchors each time. One included the smooth window sill.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you see it, watching the firefighters hop out the window was probably the most interesting event I witnessed during my first ride-along.

Apparently, I warded off the mayhem instead of bringing it with me. I wish the same were true of all my Saturday breaking news shifts. The fire station on the corner of Burns Road and Military Trail received not one call from when I arrived at 8 a.m. until I left at 1:30 p.m.

Even when I rode from station to station with Haywood as he made his rounds, all was quiet. The most exhilarating calls were for a fire and a car that looked like it was about to catch on fire. They were in Riviera Beach and the Acreage, respectively, and not serious enough or close enough for anyone from Palm Beach Gardens to be second due at the scene.

Maybe it’s for the best. Just like buying a house is not as seen on TV, neither is being a firefighter.

There is nothing exhilarating about the tedious task of carefully checking the expiration dates of medicines in the back of a rescue unit because it’s the end of the month, which is what I saw two firefighter/paramedics doing when I first showed up.

There is nothing exhilarating about reviewing updated protocol for medical calls, or discussing how much Narcan to give an addict who has overdosed so he or she starts breathing again without fighting back.

There is nothing exhilarating about working a 24-hour shift, either.

All of the above happens so firefighter/paramedics are ready when someone call 911 with a true emergency.

Now that I’ve seen an ordinary day for firefighters, it’s time to schedule a ride-along with police.


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