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A Day in the Life of Heroes

By DYLAN McKENZIE

Staff Writer

WHEELING — When most people go to work, they just hope for the day to be over quickly so they can get home and relax after a hard day’s work. But the men and women who serve on police and fire departments wish for an uneventful day, yet every day they are willing to risk it all to protect the ordinary residents of their communities.

The average day for firefighters begins around 8 a.m., when they report to their stations. Firefighters at paid departments work for 24-hour shifts, meaning that the station is their home for a day. Firefighters will eat, work and train together for that period of time, forming almost family-like bonds. These bonds are important, as firefighters need to be able to completely trust their co-workers to help them in any situation, whether it be handing them the right tool to help extricate the victim of a car accident or helping to pull a brother firefighter out of a tight place.

Firefighters spend most of the day completing routine work around the station. This can involve everything from basic housekeeping, to routine equipment cleaning and maintenance. As lives depend on the tools that they use, every piece of equipment must be inspected and brought up to par.

The fire and rescue trucks must be washed and maintained as well, and the life-saving tools that the trucks carry must be inspected as well. Depending on location, some stations might have other responsibilities and equipment that needs special care; for example, Wheeling Fire Department Station 5 on Wheeling Island is home to the fire department boat, used for operations on the Ohio River. Firefighters at Station 5 are responsible for using the boat to deal with accidents and incidents on the river, as well as being present for events at the waterfront such as the Fourth of July celebration.

Firefighters are really put to the test when there is a call for a large accident or fire, and area firefighters have all been put to the test in recent months. Martins Ferry firefighters responded to a large downtown fire early in October, where it quickly became apparent that the fire was too large for one department to handle on its own.

Reinforcements quickly arrived in the form of Bellaire, Bridgeport and Cumberland Trail firefighters, as well as trucks from the Belmont County Tanker Task Force. With all companies working in harmony, the massive blaze was soon contained, and although several businesses in downtown Martins Ferry were lost, the teamwork helped make sure the damage did not spread.

“It all went really well,” said Mike Minor, a firefighter with the Cumberland Trail Fire Department who was at the October fire. “It just went really smoothly with the amount of people we had there. Everyone worked together really well.”

Minor added that the command structure at the scene was well established, leading to the responding companies working seamlessley together to extinguish the flames.

“The rewards are fewer than the disappointments, but they definitely outweigh the bad,” Lt. Curtis Kyer of Cumberland Trail said. “They say we meet people on the worst days of their lives, and there is truth to that.”

Law enforcement officers also face a hard job, as they report to work every day not knowing what the might have to face. Even so, the men and women in uniform are still dedicated to serving the residents in their jurisdiction to the best of their abilities. David Drahos Jr. is a deputy with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, and said that he enjoys going to work every day. Drahos said he was inspired to seek a career in law enforcement to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a member of the Wheeling Police Department. After considering his options, Drahos enrolled in the West Virginia Police Academy, learning the skills he needed to become a full-fledged law enforcement officer. Drahos said a typical day for him begins with taking half an hour to check his equipment, making sure all the tools an officer needs are in perfect working order. He then reports in to headquarters before heading out on patrol, mostly at the northern and southern ends of Ohio County. Patrolling deputies keep their eyes and ears open for any unusual or dangerous situations, responding when appropriate. Drahos has been a deputy since March 2014, and describes the men and women of the department as “an exceptional group.” He said that he enjoys the work he does to protect the residents of Ohio County.

“I’m very satisfied with my job right how,” he said. “You see the best and the worst of people, but overall it’s pretty good.”

Drahos added that one of his favorite parts of his job is interacting with the public.

“It’s not just one thing. It all builds up. Interacting with the community in so many different ways, thats’s what affects me the most personally.” Drahos also said he hopes people still have trust and faith in the police who serve them, saying that they really do just want to help people however they can. “I know law enforcement gets a lot of negative attention in the media right now,” he said. “But we actually are there to help you, not just write tickets and arrest people.”

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