Jake Warren, a safety, security and emergency management graduate student, co-ops with the Richmond Fire Dept. (Photo submitted)

By Christina Crawford Bolton

As a co-op fireman with the Richmond Fire Department, Eastern student Jake Warren puts his life on the line while maintaining a safe environment around campus. The 23-year-old grad student from Paducah, experiences the physical, emotional and mental drain included in fighting fires and practicing safety skills.His firefighter job is “an opportunity through Eastern to work for the city. A good learning opportunity, you could call it,” said Warren, who received certification in EMT and CPR on campus.

Warren’s 24-hour work shifts rotate every third day at the Ladder 3 Fire Station. He is off work for 48 hours while the other two shifts are tending to the fire station. Warren is one of 12 Co-ops with the Fire and Safety Engineering program (FSE) between three fire stations in Richmond.

“Warren is a driven and determined stand-out co-op fireman,” said Corey Lewis, public information officer with the Richmond Fire Department. “He’s a hard worker who brings a different element to the fire service with his background.”

Warren’s introduction to all things fire-related started when he was a freshman in high school in Paducah. His friend’s father was a fireman and Warren got to see first-hand what it was like to be one.

“One night I went down there (to the fire station) and I never stopped going,” Warren said.

Warren’s interest grew as he helped out with the rigs at the volunteer fire station.

“I couldn’t fight fire until I was 18 though,” Warren said, adding that his young age prohibited him from working due to insurance regulations.

These days, his 24-hour on-duty activities start early at 7 a.m. and include fixing broken equipment, cleaning the rig, checking the ladder, cleaning the fire station, training, dinner and sleeping at the station.

“He’s a go-getter who knows his chores and tasks and he does them well,” Lewis said.

“When Richmond flooded last semester all of the stations were dispatched,” said Holly Harker, who is the prevention Co-op with FSE, and is one of Warren’s roommates. “I remember showing up to bring (Jake and a friend) food and dry clothes, and there wasn’t a dry spot on them. They were tired, wet and hungry, but they worked all night without complaining.”

Warren juggles all the duties of being a firefighter alongside his three Safety, Security and Emergency Management night classes, and his Lab Technician job with Eastern’s Fire Extinguisher laboratory, where he works five days a week.

“I am responsible for several buildings on campus, making sure the fire extinguishers are filled and in working order,” Warren said. “If I find one that’s not in good order I trade it out with one of the spares that I carry with me, and go back to the lab and refill the one that is not good.”

September is campus fire safety month, so every Wednesday this month Warren’s shared his knowledge with students, teaching them how to use an extinguisher.

The Richmond Fire Department, Eastern department of Environmental Health and Safety and Fire Extinguisher Lab have sponsored the event on Powell corner in which students take a trainer extinguisher and try to put out a propane flame.

With the FSE program, Warren and others help build burn buildings, which consist of a quarter-scale of one room of a house.

“We’ll burn that to represent how fire would react,” he said.

In the event of a real fire, normally a person calls 911. The 911 Center is in the same building as the Madison County Fire Station No. 1, which is located on South Keeneland Drive.

“We listen for a certain tone and that gets our attention, and then they will start dispatching for a house fire or whatever it is,” Warren said. “The city of Richmond has a good fire prevention program. Fires are on the decline, which is good for home owners.”

Warren said he fights approximately 20 to 30 fires a year, between his Co-op job with Eastern and the fire station in Paducah during the summer breaks.

And while he considers each fire he fights a learning experience, some are more painful lessons to learn than others.

“The worst call I’ve ever had involved a boy and his friend who were playing with lighters and matches in an old trailer,” Warren said. “Somehow a bed caught on fire and the boy’s friend got out but he didn’t. Long story short, he didn’t make it.”

Warren’s disposition changed as he recalled how the boy’s mother showed up looking for him since they lived in a house on down the road.

“She started hollering for him because she thought he was in the woods. We knew where he was, but she didn’t believe it. So that was hard,” he said.

“Trailer fires are hard to fight because they go so quick. The fire had done its work before we could make a difference,” Warren said. “We always make an effort, but we can’t reverse what’s already been done.”

Warren said he’s never physically run through the flames and saved someone.

“Very few firemen actually get to do that,” he said. “I’ve heard that once you get to do it though, that it’s the best feeling.”

Warren has cut people out of car wrecks.

“I do it all the time,” he said. “Since I’m at Station 3, I make runs to the interstate a lot.”

Outside of work, Harker claims Warren is easy to live with.

“He’s a great cook,” Harker said. “I often catch things on fire if I even attempt to boil water, so he keeps my belly full.”

Warren’s master plan is to get out of grad school and become a regular fireman somewhere. He’d also like to “teach fire stuff” at a community college.

“Jake has built relationships with the other firemen. They respect (Jake) and he respects them,” Lewis said. “If you were to see Jake and the other crew fighting a fire, you wouldn’t be able to tell which where the real firemen and which were the Co-ops. Jake blends right in.

Fire and safety engineering students, including Jake Warren, helped with demonstrations of the sprinklered versus non-sprinklered compartment fires. (photo submitted)