by Lorie Lewis Ham
KRL did several articles last year profiling different aspects of the City of Reedley, including several articles about the Reedley Police Department. This year we are profiling members of the Reedley Fire Department. This is our third interview, and this one is with Fire Captain Ryan Rodriguez. Ryan was born and raised in Reedley and attended St. La Salle, Lincoln Elementary, Grant Middle School, and Reedley High School. He then went on to attend Reedley College and Fresno City College.
KRL: Are you full time or volunteer?
Ryan: We are all proud volunteers, or PCF’s (paid-call firefighters) in Reedley. But like most of us on the department, I do hold a full time job. I work for the railroad as a conductor on a freight train. The company I work for is BNSF Railway, or Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
When did you first know you wanted to be a firefighter and why?
Ryan: I didn’t actually! Funny story, I came across a photo in one of my parents many photo albums, and it was a picture of me in Kindergarten on the fire truck, and it said, “When I grow up, I want to be a fireman.” But growing up I actually wanted to be many things, then I had an accident that literally changed my life and the life of my parents, probably for the best. As I was in the hospital and had a lot of nurses caring for me, and I saw their love and compassion for how they did their job, it inspired me. So with that being said, I wanted to be a nurse. Then in high school and college, I did the ROTC program, and I wanted to continue that on, and I made a choice of wanting to become an RN in the military. But I soon lost interest, and my dad who was, ans still is, on the fire department encouraged me to join, so I got hired at the age of 18, and the rest is history.
KRL: How long have you been one and how long with Reedley Fire Department?
Ryan: I have been a firefighter with the City of Reedley for about 15 years.
KRL: What kind of training did you go through?
Ryan: Aside from the rigorous training hours we have to complete at the department, I attended and graduated from the Fresno City College Fire Academy in 2008. I also have completed numerous state fire marshal certifications, anywhere from confined space rescue, low angle rescue, HAZMAT, trench rescue, etc. I also am certified through the State of California as a Firefighter I and Firefighter II. I have taken many fire science classes that would go towards my degree in fire science. But pretty much as a firefighter, you want to take all available trainings and classes, because it will only make you better as a firefighter, the crew you work with, and the community your department serves.
KRL: What do you like best about being a firefighter?
Ryan: Besides riding on the big red truck??? No just kidding. Like I said previously, it is about the community and people we serve. I know that this saying is overplayed, but it is true when we say helping someone in their absolutely worst time of need is a feeling that in indescribable. Until you actually do it, then there is no comparison. Helping children is especially rewarding, and it doesn’t matter if they’re the ones needing help or not. Just seeing that smile on their little face is enough for me, because in their eyes, you are a role model, but ultimately the biggest hero they will ever come across, and that is what makes this job so worth it.
KRL: What is the hardest?
Ryan: We see a lot of really horrible things daily. Seeing death is especially hard on all of us. As a human being, seeing someone die, sometimes right in front of you is not a normal thing, and it is traumatizing. But for me, the calls that involve children are the absolute hardest to deal with, especially because I have kids of my own. PTSD is at an all time high within the first responder community, and the suicide rate is sky rocketing because some of us do not know how to process the calls we go on. As the saying goes, “I wish my mind can forget what my eyes have seen.”
KRL: What is a typical day like for you on the job?
Ryan: Well being volunteer, whenever we get a call, not all of us are going to make an engine for a fire, or medical aid, etc. So there are assignments and job duties that we complete every time we come down to the station for a call. Whether its checking a piece of apparatus and the fluid levels in it, or making sure that all of our chainsaws are working properly, sharpening tools…the list goes on. But most importantly, we make sure that our PPE (personal protective equipment) is in working order and ready to go for the next call.
Ryan:I workout, and I love listening to music.
Ryan: Yes, I am married to my beautiful wife Vanessa, and we have four kids–three girls and one boy.
KRL: Future plans/goals?
Ryan: Being in a leadership role in the department comes with a lot of challenges, and as a leader to my guys, I will continue to better myself as a company officer so that I am safe and so that they are safe also, because learning as a firefighter never stops. We learn something new everyday.
KRL: Anything else you would like to share>
Ryan: I would encourage anyone that has the drive and passion to want to help others, and be part of a brotherhood, to join the fire department. It is really the best job in the world.
Watch for many more profiles on Reedley firefighters this year, and you can find even more Reedley articles in our Reedley News section!