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A Burning Desire to Serve

A Burning Desire to Serve

Collinsville Assistant Fire Chief John Nichols last week. [Collinsville Vol. Fire Dept]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch via YellowBrix

February 11, 2010

A: I fell through a floor and into a basement and was kind of disoriented and couldn’t find my way out. There was a walkout basement door I didn’t know about. Rick Welle and my dad came through the walkout door to get me. I didn’t know it was there.

Q: What do you like about fire fighting?

A: I guess when you’re in the fire, it’s you against the fire – you make the decision whether to stay and fight or get out. You’re going into a smoke-filled room and going by your senses. It’s a good feeling when you beat the fire.

Q: How has fire fighting changed since you started?

A: Back when I started out, they didn’t call for everybody until they say you really had a fire. Now there are different rules; if flames are reported we automatically call others out and two other neighboring towns for assistance.

Q: What would you like to say to people upon your leaving? What will you miss?

A: The department is in better shape that it’s ever been due to the quality of the people. Departments offer better training and because there has been an increase in manpower. I will miss the camaraderie of the firemen. I’ve got a married family and I have a Fire Department family. When I was on shift until a year ago, every fourth day you’re living with someone 24 hours. You develop close relationships.

Q: What big changes have you seen over the years?

A: I remember when I hired on, trucks had stick shifts, no power steering and no air conditioning. Now they are automatics with air conditioning and six in a cab. I rode the tail board when I began. Now it’s against the law. Everybody is enclosed in the cab now, wearing seat belts in the air conditioning.

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