Batavia firefighter/paramedic Christy Stock was about to serve the chili she had made when she and her fellow firefighters had to leave the station to assist on a medical call.
But the chili still was piping hot in a crockpot when firefighters got back from the call, which is why she likes preparing it.
“It’s an easy one,” Stock said. “There’s a little bit of prep. You go out on a call, and it’s still good.”
Eating meals together is an important tradition for fire departments across the region. That’s just one tradition that fire departments have adopted in their firehouses.
“We’re like a family here,” Batavia firefighter/paramedic Cale Loebbaka said. “It brings us together.”
It also gives firefighters a chance to catch a breath after being on the go.
“We spend more time with the people we work with than our own families,” Loebbaka said. “We are with each other for 24 hours at a time.”
Teamwork is the strongest tradition among firefighters, St. Charles Assistant Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said.
“If you have a strong ego, you’re not going to last long,” he said.
That’s why firefighters who find themselves featured in a news story are required to buy other firefighters ice cream or something else of value.
“They don’t seek attention,” Schelstreet said. “Their reward comes from doing their jobs well.”
At the Sugar Grove fire station, 20-year-old Jacob Mackey, who is training to become a firefighter, was washing dishes after the firefighters finished eating lunch. Recruits such as Mackey are expected to perform such duties.
“That’s kind of how they learn the traditions,” Sugar Grove Fire Lt. Kristen Wade said. “They do the stuff we used to do.”
Mackey said he didn’t mind.
“It’s all worth it in the end,” he said. “I’m earning my place in the firehouse. There’s a brotherhood.”
The situation is similar at Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District, where those training to become firefighters are expected to perform duties.
“They have their mettle tested,” said Greg Benson, the district’s fire chief. “The expectation of a new person is they will assume a larger role in less desirable tasks.”
Although the district started its operations a little more than a year ago, the emergency personnel there already feel a sense of family with each other.
“Camaraderie is critical,” Benson said. “You have to have developed those relationships in order to be successful in the field.”
Everybody in the department has a role to play, he said.
“Some guys are better cooks, some are better eaters, and some are better at cleaning up,” Benson said.
Firefighters build such close relationships with each other that they sometimes get together during off hours.
“Some of the shifts get together off duty and go out to dinner together,” Geneva Fire Chief Steve Olson said. “We encourage our firefighters to work closely together. They get to know each other very well, to a certain extent.”
Geneva firefighter/paramedic Rod Johnson said the department has become like an extended family.
“We go through a lot together, good times and bad times,” Johnson said. “We share it all together.”
That includes sleeping in semiprivate rooms.
“Some of the guys complain about other guys’ snoring, but it doesn’t bother me,” Johnson said.