Station 59: Protecting those who guard America

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Crystalynn A. Kneen

The inside of the polished red and silver fire truck was sweltering. Sweat dripped from each undaunted face as the firemen simultaneously put head-sets on. The thick cushion of their suits and the bulk of their rubber boots seemed too much to bear from the heat of the blazing sun beating down on them through the windows, but it was a training evolution. A firefighter’s duty that is done daily with no question and a disciplined drill regardless of the heat or cold. A preparedness essential when the shrill of the bells go off for a selfless duty the entire unit is proud to carry on their shoulders with no regret.

This 17 person unit is one of only five firehouses of the United States Coast Guard. This fire house in particular is located on the training grounds of Coast Guardsmen. This fire house is U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., Fire Department Station 59.

The unit is a mixture of Coast Guard petty officers, prior service and civilians who come together as a team for fire prevention and support.

The firefighters of station 59 are sent to an intense three month fire academy to learn the basics in fire fighting, hazardous material awareness and fire fighting operations.

“The academy is just the framework for the firefighters,” said Chris A. Walters, the fire chief of Station 59. “They come back to their probationary period and are usually attached to a more senior firefighter who guides them and continuously keeps on their training, schools and strategies.”

The firefighters of station 59 are national certified firefighters after the academy and schedule training daily to be proficient in their mission.

“Our main focus is training,” said Walters. “The biggest part of our job is making sure we as a unit are capable of handling the Big One.”

When a firemen says the term the Big One, he is refering to a massive fire they would respond to.

Besides the academy, the firefighters also are trained in emergency medical services to provide aid to anyone in need, on or off base including the recruits of the training center.

“We are certified emergency medical technicians for the entire base,” said Ryan P. Geraghty, an eleven year civilian firefighter at station 59. “The recruits see us as help. We treat their injuries and try to be mentors and get them out in the fleet.”

Besides the daily training, the firefighters of Station 59 answer emergency calls on and off base. They provide fire and emergency services for the training center and the community. They accomplish this by providing technical consultant services, promoting aggressive fire prevention and education programs and maintaining a professional fire suppression and rescue force to protect Coast Guard resources from loss of fire.

“We provide fire protection for the training center and Cape May County,” said Geraghty. “We are utilized as a task force for the Coast Guard as well as the surrounding community.”

The fire fighters of Station 59 are dispatched along with approximately three other Cape May fire departments for support and are involved in numerous joint training drills and exercises as well as fire prevention week to educate the public.

“Our presence is really strong in regards to the community,” said Geraghty. “Our relationships are excellent and we have a mutual respect with the other departments. We are constantly getting feedback from the base and the community, which shows their appreciation. Its something to take home at the end of the day”

As well as the community, the fire fighters of Station 59 are also responsible for supporting the units on base.

“The units here are doing great things for the Coast Guard,” said Geraghty. “We are here to support them, to maximize their off time, to use all our resources to help them take the load off, so they can focus on their main Coast Guard mission.”

The firefighters of Station 59 responded to over 1300 emergency calls in 2008. Including 58 alarm activations, 19 gas leaks, six hazardous material calls, six investigations, two structure fires, 629 EMS calls, six fires, one rescue, 80 mutual aid and one vehicle fire as well as other issues such as ambulance and medevac calls.

“With as much as our station does in a year, the self satisfaction for providing a public service is gratifying, said Geraghty. “All the training and everything we do comes down to the fact that we saved someones life or resources. We made a positive impact.”

In addition to the training, units and community, the firefighters of station 59 also track a medical evaluation program and work out daily for physical fitness.

“The primary goal during our missions is the health and safety of our petty officers,” said Geraghty. “If we are not proficient and don’t have the ability to accomplish our mission, people could get injured. We want to have zero injuries.”

The firefighters of Station 59 provide a service to the community and Coast Guard Training Center Cape May. Serving the Coast Guard’s multi-faceted mission.

“We definitely support the overall mission”, said Walters. “The most valuable part of any service is the people. In Cape May is where it starts for the Coast Guard. Helping everyone mold the Coast Guard’s future. I like to think we are a little piece of that.”

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