Eric Braatz1. Why did you become a firefighter?

I was raised within the fire service; I have nearly 200 combined years of its service in my family. I knew always knew I wanted to serve my community, at first I just wasn't sure in what capacity.

But to do something that focused on helping others was always just a given... it was ingrained in me growing up to have that "Boy-Scout" approach to things of always trying to be prepared...to put others first. It was just something you were supposed to do and for me it's a great honor to have the opportunity to do so and The Fire Service offered all of that.

As I grew older I realized it was more then just helping out, that its a Brotherhood driven to serve, to honor tradition, to maintain a focused sense of duty with a willingness to protect life and property... how could anyone not want to be a part of that?

2. How long have you been with the District?

I've been with our Department since 1995, but I also served one year with another Department before being hired with CCFR.

3. What is your favorite part of the job?

The best part of the job is the core of what we do, simply being able to help others. Through the process of providing that service the reward is the overwhelming sense of pride that comes with being able to contribute a positive influence no matter how big or small to a negative situation, it's a sense of accomplishment and worth.

Not all agree, but for me there is also no substitute for the camaraderie and the friendships that have been formed over the years. Working side by side amongst countless scenes of chaos and tragedy, the close calls and even sometimes the hilariously absurd have helped us made a bond; and even if you didn't always like the guy you're working with, that bond and focused sense of purpose is unique to the job. It carries with it a non-verbal understanding or acceptance of "wow, did we just do that?" survive that?" worked together to fix that?"....I think those kinds of friendships can only be built through the shared experiences not found anywhere else except other services such as law enforcement, Emergency Medical and the Military.

I also take pride in the challenge of living up to the expectations of the position. Always striving to remain a positive role model for my children, to appreciate and respect the honor and privilege of putting on that uniform with so many dynamic, highly trained and like minded personalities.

This "Job" isn't always viewed the same by all of us; for some it's just that, a job. I view it as more of a calling, or a life style with the bonus of a paycheck.

4. What do you like to do outside of work?

My home life isn't all that exciting in the perspective of world travel and seeking crazy adventures. The majority of my time off is just spent surviving the daily routine; joggling the responsibilities of keeping up the house, staying active with my children's school events, sporting activities, their social circles and trying to free up quality time with the wife and family. Just doing that can be an adventure all on its own.

My wife and I have four children and two large dogs, my youngest child is 3, and need I say more? However; when I do get the chance, I enjoy riding my motorcycle, visiting the firing range, playing paintball with my oldest son, painting and just spending some quality time with my wife and a glass of wine.

Simply put, I don't need to be constantly entertained or visit far off places, I'm very thankful for what I have and look forward to spending my time with my family when I can. It's what's most important to me.

5. What would people be surprised to know about you?

Well, two things I guess... I actually went to college to major in Studio Art. And secondly, on the day I was having my final "yes you got the job" interview with the Fire Chief way back when, I was supposed to be testing to become a State Trooper for the Missouri Highway Patrol.

6. Describe a typical day at the firehouse.

No such thing. Meaning, yes we have general duties, equipment maintenance, vehicle maintenance, public fire education, continuous EMS, Haz-mat, Fire and Rescue training, car seat installations, smoke detector checks, pre-plans, inspections, zone coverage, move-ups, automatic mutual aid for closest unit response, give or a take a few others. Yet, no matter the routine of the day, every time those tones drop and we get sent out to respond, to help someone... there is nothing typical about that.

Each emergency; though some may have a basis of similarity, is unique in its own way. You never know what you're going to face or the impossible number of variables that can change affecting the course of our actions. Just because we are dispatched for the report of one type of emergency is no guarantee that is what we will find once we get there. Which is why we have all of the above... the constant training, prevention, preparation.

The only typical aspect is that we never know what were going to find but we will bring the knowledge and ability to bring order to the chaos as a team.

7. What are two things about your job that people would surprise non-firefighters?

We typically do not rescue cats from trees... although I have on three occasions. No we don't just put out fires. Yes we also respond to all life threating medical emergencies.

No we don't have a Dalmatian, we used to a long time ago, but she didn't like kids and you can't have a dog that doesn't like kids at the firehouse, so we found her a good home outside the firehouse. No we don't race at 100 miles an hour going to an emergency; we are governed by strict response guidelines and the speeds in which we can drive. And no we don't destroy houses during a fire; we focus on salvaging and protecting as much of the property as we can give the situation found.

Secondly, we are the community catch all... fire extinguishment is only a small portion of the services we provide. If you call, whatever your issue; within reason, we have the ability to help correct it, mitigate it, remove the hazard or notify the correct agency that can ... it's all about service. And yes, we take the fire truck to the grocery store from time to time, it goes where we go and we travel as a crew.
We always operate at a high state of readiness to respond, even when getting groceries.

But, more importantly, I think most people would be surprised that we are just regular people too. We may be highly trained and motivated to help but we are effected by what we see; the scenes we face, sometimes positively and sometimes not. The public holds us to a very high standard and we continuously strive to meet and exceed that expectation.

The job has its inherent dangers, those risks come with the territory, we are trained to manage and mitigate that but we are not immune to the stress of it, we accept it because we have to, that's our choice, but it takes its toll.