From The Daily Mississippian by Rockford Cook
Study, sleep and extinguish fires?
University of Mississippi students go beyond the college student’s call of duty (keep up the GPA and party like a rock star) as a part of the volunteer firefighter team serving the City of Oxford.
As volunteers, these students do everything that a full-time fireman does, but with no pay or compensation.
They are among the few that answer the call, no matter when it comes to them.
Jonathan Hollis, senior art major, is part of this group.
“It was challenging at first, trying to readjust yourself to college while also taking night classes at the central fire station,” said Hollis, who started his training when he was a freshman.
“It was there where we completed the classwork and also some of the physical training aspect of the course,” Hollis said.
“It was difficult keeping my focus on my studies, because my mind was always on the possibility of my becoming a volunteer firefighter and completing the course. But now I have everything balanced pretty well with my schoolwork, social life and my fire-fighting duties.”
Hollis is not the only student risking his life. Another is graduate student David Alm.
“I love being part of a team,” Alm said. “For me, that is the best part of being part of the volunteer firemen.”
Alm, who said he dreams of becoming a policeman, had to find an outlet for his love of public service and emergency response.
“Since you cannot get hired as a police officer until you are 21, the next best thing was to train to be a volunteer fireman,” Alm said. “I would not trade the experience for the world. I have put out several grass fires, pulled bodies out of cars and even a handful of house fires. As a college student, some people play Xbox. I enjoyed putting out fires.”
Although they enjoy what they do, the danger involved is real.
Hollis recounted a house fire on Highway 30 in the dead of winter.
“It was very cold, and ice was everywhere,” Hollis explained. “When we had arrived, the fire had started to spread from the bedroom to the bathroom. Luckily, we had gotten there in time to contain it and successfully put it out.”
But the risk does not outweigh the volunteer firemen’s sense of community pride and their commitment to public service.
“I feel this is my way of giving back to my community,” Hollis said. “Community service is greatly important, and this is me doing my part. I get a great sense of purpose with this position.”
“They are great,” Lafayette County fire chief Mike Hill said. “It takes a special person to be a volunteer firefighter. We have to have them. In fact, we are grateful to have them. It has to be a very dedicated person to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and be called to duty for no pay. They truly benefit our community and the surrounding communities.”