Design | Volunteer | Protect
Written by Michael Fries, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
I grew up in the small, rural town of Lake Mills, Iowa. We had both a volunteer fire department and volunteer ambulance service. I had Scoutmasters and coaches who volunteered on these departments. I always looked up to them on how they volunteered their time to help people in emergencies. When I earned my Eagle Scout Rank from the Boy Scouts, one of the merit badges you had to complete was Emergency Preparedness. That always stuck with me.
When I graduated from college with my architecture degree, I moved into an area that had a volunteer fire department. I thought, 'awesome here is my chance to serve as a volunteer firefighter!' I quickly realized that my knowledge and training as an Architect really helped as a firefighter to understand how buildings are constructed.
I have been a volunteer firefighter / first responder for 13 years now. My time in the fire service has also taught me the importance of constructing buildings to meet building and fire code standards. I have seen first hand how quickly fire can spread when you don't have the proper construction.
Being a volunteer firefighter is both physically and mentally demanding. You might work 12 hours at the office and finally come home to sleep, but when that pager goes off, someone really needs your help. Most people don't realized it, but 70% of all firefighters in the United States are volunteers.
It's an honor to serve my community as a volunteer firefighter.