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Full-time firefighter paramedic Matthew Karasek caffeinates during his shift in the back seat of Engine-14 on their way to a block party. The DeWitt Fire Department answers emergency call for medical and fire service.
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Firehoses dry in the DeWitt Fire Department apparatus bay. The DeWitt Fire Department responds to a range of calls to give emergency assistance to injured people and working fire situations.
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Part-time firefighter emergency medical technician Jason Ormsby, left, and full-time firefighter paramedic Connor Dupree organize hose sockets for Engine 14 during a routine check.
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Part-time firefighter emergency medical technician Jason Ormsby rests inside the apparatus bay after responding to an emergency medical call in the morning.
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Helmets, coats and boots hang up in lockers for easy access to responding to a call. Each firefighter are responsible for their own equipment and maintaining it.
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A hard-hat firefighter helmet lays inside Engine-14 during a fire call the department is responding to. The DeWitt Fire Department's primary response is 70% emergency medical response and 30% fire situations.
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Full-time firefighter paramedic Derek Natoli throws on his jacket in Engine-14 during a call to a fire alarm at the Onondaga country club. The DeWitt Fire Department responds to a range of calls to give emergency assistance to injured people and working fire situations.
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Part-time firefighter emergency medical technician Jason Ormsby , left, and full-time lieutenant Scott Kehoe assess an 86-year-old man as possibly septic at the Nottingham Nursing Home.
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Full-time firefighter paramedic Connor Dupree rests inside Engine-14 during his shift at the DeWitt Fire Department in Central New York. The DeWitt Fire Department responds to a range of calls to give emergency assistance to injured people and working fire situations.
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Full-time firefighter paramedic Mark Fedorov waves his hand in the wind outside the window of Engine-14 after an emergency medical call. The DeWitt Fire Department responds to a range of calls to give emergency assistance to injured people and working fire situations.
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During a fire department block party a few miles away from the station, DeWitt residents gather around the main apparatus, Engine-14. Block parties are designed to help the department connect with the people it serves.
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After exploring Engine-14, 3-year-old Ivey runs past the firefighters who gave her a tour. The Block Party gives neighborhoods an opportunity to meet their serving firefighters.
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Full-time firefighter paramedic Derek Natoli mows the lawn of the DeWitt Fire Department on a Saturday afternoon before a rainstorm. The DeWitt Fire Department responds to a range of calls to give emergency assistance to injured people and working fire situations.
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After a full day of calls, Dupree reads the ‘Strategic and Tactical Considerations on the Fireground’ in a shared dormitory on the second level of the station before falling asleep.

24/7

Day and night, DeWitt firefighters train, prepare and wait for the inevitable dispatcher call.

When the call comes, feet rush without hesitation and fire engines roar, leaving behind a vacant building. With every passing minute, there is a potential difference between life and death that can make a firefighter’s blood rush with adrenaline.

For the past 87 years at the DeWitt Fire Department, the crew knows an emergency call can come at any moment, even if they’re eating, sleeping or training; but firefighters continue to risk their own lives for the people they protect.

Sitting in the lounge area as natural light filters through one of its large windows, full-time firefighter paramedic Mark Fedorov, a U.S. Navy veteran, recalls the past year at the department as he taps his index finger on his thigh and listens for the keyword in the dispatcher calls overhead: “DeWitt.” As he runs to the apparatus bay, he visualizes the approaching scene and the decisions he may need to make.

“You could be relaxing in bed, drifting off to sleep, and all of a sudden — BAM! — the bell rings. Your heart is immediately going 1,000 miles an hour,” said Fedorov. “You learn to use it to your advantage and become more alert.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were about 1.3 million fire calls, 23.5 million medical calls and 2.9 million false alarms made in 2018 nationwide. Fires are occurring less and less based on NFPA’s statistics, which makes the majority of calls medical aid requests. The DeWitt Fire Department’s call volume is roughly 70% emergency medical service and 30% fire-related, which required the department to facilitate training inside their station to stay updated with medical knowledge requirements.

The smell of the 10-year-old building is distinct. A tinge of gasoline fumes seeps from the five resting fire trucks, and sunlight illuminating the bay sets a soft yellow tone as firefighters walk in for the day shift. While preparing his gear, full-time firefighter paramedic Connor DuPree, a third-generation DeWitt fireman, begins his shift.

“Regardless of how my day goes, or [what] emotional roller coaster I might be on with calls, tours or lack of calls, I’ll walk through those doors and feel a sense of belonging,” said DuPree in the machinery room as he polishes a metal Halligan bar used to open doors. “I really feel a sense of self-worth just doing what I do, both on calls for the public and for just what I do here for the department.”

Inside the station, firefighters share duties and living spaces during their 10-to-14-hour shifts. One person will make a hearty meal, another will clean the fire trucks, and another person will file the reports required after every call. These critical duties are considered to be as important as emergency response obligations because they help maintain the crew’s mental and physical well-being, keeping them at the ready 24/7.

“I think the best part of the day is just the unknown part of it,” said Fedorov. “I come into work, and I never know what I’m going to be doing. It could be a slow day where we don’t really do much of anything, or we could get a fire call or a really bad medical service call where we actually save someone.”

–By Zarah Myers

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