First Responders Sign Up to Make Positive Impact
By SCOTT McCLOSKEY
WHEELING — The desire to make a positive impact in their local communities seems to be the common thread for area first responders who many times work under stressful and difficult circumstances while responding to day-to-day emergencies and hazards.
While becoming a police officer or firefighter/paramedic can provide a steady income, police officers and firefighters who signed up for the call of duty in Wheeling, St. Clairsville and Moundsville all agree they were drawn to a public safety profession because it allows them to make a direct positive impact in their communities and in people’s lives.
∫ Cumberland Trail Fire District Lts. Chad Zambori and Daniel Grady are quick to agree they were drawn to the firefighting profession years ago to make a difference in their community. Zambori said his first interactions of being around firefighters as a 12-year-old cadet in Barton pretty much set the tone for his early impressions of the challenging career.
“I fell in love with it almost immediately, and from there on out pretty much all I wanted to do was be a firefighter,” Zambori said. “Just starting out being a volunteer, you get to see benefits without any benefit to you.”
He said working in a career where you can help people under the most trying of circumstances is extremely rewarding. He said nearly a decade after first being introduced to the occupation as a cadet, he was hired as a paid part-time firefighter at the St. Clairsville department. The following year, in 1998, he moved into a full-time position with the department.
In addition to all the firefighter skills Zambori has aquired over the years, he said being a lieutenant also requires management and multi-tasking skills. Whether it’s responding to the day-to-day emergency calls or participating in training exercises, firefighters are exposed to a large variety of situations.
Zambori and Grady are quick to agree the firefighter occupation is one that creates a strong sense of camaraderie among co-workers and other first responder agencies.
“It truly is a second family,” Zambori commented. He said many times they are with co-workers more than their own families. “We eat together, we sleep in the bunk room, we do house duties together … so everybody here is like a second family, it truly is,” he added.
Grady said when you spend more than one-third of your life with your co-workers, a strong bond and friendship exist beyond working hours. A firefigher/paramedic, Grady said he grew up in St. Clairsville near a neighbor who was a firefighter, and he was quickly drawn to the profession from a young age. He became a firefighter at 21 years old.
“I always knew that I would be in some sort of public service,” Grady said. “You handle whatever calls come in. … We do a lot of training so that when calls do come in it’s not something you really have to think about, you’re trained to do it.”
∫ Wheeling Police Officers Bryan Wilson, Carlie Haywood and Dean Redinger said they all signed up to become police officers for a variety of reasons, but mainly to make a positive impact in the community.
Wilson, who has been a police officer for the past 10 years, the past six in Wheeling, said he had a strong desire to work in a profession where he could directly help other people and help people who can’t help themselves. He said being a police officer is a position that requires not only flexibility with scheduling, but one that requires a tremendous amount of patience when dealing with the public at times. He said the occupation creates a strong sense of camaraderie.
“We go through high stress situations together, so that usually brings us together,” Wilson said.
Haywood, who said she applied to be a Wheeling police officer three years ago, said she entered college already knowing what she wanted to do for a living.
“I like the uniqueness of it. Every call is unique, and you are not sitting behind a computer all day,” said Haywood, who is native of southwestern Pennsylvania. Haywood said there are many situations police are called to that require a “thick skin.”
“We go through a lot of stressful situations together,” she added.
Patrolman Redinger, who graduated from the West Virginia Police Academy near Charleston nearly a year ago, said he applied to become a police officer in Wheeling after obtaining a criminal justice degree at Wheeling Jesuit University.
“I had a really good experience with some officers in this department while I was in college, so it kind of helped me lean toward applying here,” Redinger said.
He said becoming a police officer has brought him a tremendous sense of pride. He said even after experiencing a tough day from time to time he still feels a great sense of pride to put on his uniform each day.
∫ Moundsville police Officer Richard Roar, who just graduated from the police academy this past December, said he has looked up to law enforcement officers ever since he was a kid. He said he has had family and friends in the law enforcement profession.
“I’ve always been inspired by the work they do and the countless hours they put in to serving everyone else, and it’s always been an inspiration for me to give back to my community,” Roar commented. “I work with a great group … and to serve their families and friends is awesome.”
He said the job requires a lot of dedication and compassion for people in general. “I want to make things better and people’s lives better.”
He said developing a strong camaraderie with co-workers and other first responders is extremely important in his field.
“One of the biggest things with working at the department, you have to have camaraderie. You have to have trust with your fellow co-workers,” said Roar, who views his co-workers as his “brothers and sisters.”
∫ Wheeling firefighter Lt. Steven Moore, who was hired in 2004 after taking classes in criminal justice at West Liberty University, said he wanted to work in a career that was more “hands on” where he could help others.
“I wasn’t necessarily cut out to do an office job. … Mostly the inspiration was just to be able to help people out,” said Moore, who was also a Boy Scout growing up. “We can be called out at any time, and we work 24-hour shifts.”
He said even in their off-duty time they can be called out to assist with emergencies. Moore, who is a member of the department’s swift water rescue and dive teams, said he has been called in to assist on a variety of emergencies, including flooding or river and creek rescues. “You might get a call in the middle of the night on your day off and you have to go,” he added.
Moore agrees there is a tremendous bond that exists between his co-workers and local law enforcement agencies. “I feel like we work well with the police department and the local sheriff’s office,” he said.
“It’s not just a work thing. We hang out after work. Some guys golf together, go hunting, that sort of thing … we rely on each other,” he added.
The Moundsville Police Department employs 14 full-time police officers, including the police chief, while the Wheeling Police Department currently employs 69 officers.
The Wheeling Fire Department has 93 members including two mechanics and one administrative assistant, while Cumberland Trail has 24 full-time firefighters and 21 part-time positions.