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The City Journals

A glimpse of life at Fire Station 43

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Firefighters Eddie Godrick, Collin Ward, Sterling Wright and Fire Captain Jared Christensen, Firefighter Tony Pappas and Battalion Chief Shane Conrad. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]    

The smell of sweet potatoes and seasoning fill the room as the A shift at Station 43 enjoyed their evening meal. Firefighter Sterling Wright manned the asparagus as Collin Ward’s shark tattoo got called a dolphin—again. Tony Pappas is the artist behind the beautiful mural in the gym and joined in on the ribbing with Eddie Godrick. Chief Jared Christensen cooked the pork wrapped in bacon. It’s like a big family of brothers in the kitchen, teasing each other. But behind the jesting are devoted South Salt Lake public employees who love their work as firefighters. 

Christensen has been with the City of South Salt Lake Fire department for 12 years and has been a firefighter for 16. His grandpa was a firefighter for Salt Lake City and influenced Christensen’s decision to follow in his footsteps. “I wanted to do it my whole life,” he said.  

Christensen remembered one of his busiest days being 48 calls in 24 hours but that is not the norm, though that is what he lives for. With a schedule of two days on and four days off he comes to work five times a month. 

“You can go 48 hours with no sleep,” Christensen said. Even though the schedule seems relaxing, it is not the case. Christensen admitted most people have another job they do on their four days off. 

Ward, who has the shark tattoo, drives in from Far West every four days and travels throughout Utah teaching classes for aspiring firefighters with Utah Fire and Rescue when he is not at the station. Ward’s father was a firefighter in Arizona and he also knew he would be one as well. 

“My whole life I hung around the fire house,” said Ward. 

Pappas also teaches on his days off, an EMT class “mostly because I can’t say no.” The rest of the crew erupts in laughter when he says this. 

Wright has always had, what he called, a “desire to serve the public.” They all love the job despite the risks, including increased risks of some cancers and back injuries. With the new ambulances coming soon they hope lifting patients in and out will be easier on their backs. 

Not only do the firefighters take on the ebb and flow of the job but so do their families. Christensen remembered the year he had to work on Thanksgiving. 

“My whole family of 32 people came here,” he said. It can be hard on families, Christensen said, noting that “you miss baseball games and birthdays.” If you love someone enough you take on what they love and for these firefighters their families have chosen to take on the difficulties that come with the calling.   

Christensen said everyone wants to be on the fire engine but they rotate positions, three on the truck and two in the ambulance. Godrick, Pappas, and Wright are paramedics and Ward is an EMT. Having some medical training is important for getting hired and all of them have at least an advanced EMT certification. During the day, at the station, crew members have a more regular work day, unless they get a call. Trainings to keep up on their medical and fire skills takes place during this time. 

When you eat, sleep, exercise, grocery shop, and work with the same group of people for a continuous amount of time relationships are formed and it really helps if you like the people you work with. 

“I didn’t really feel like I fit in like I do here,” Pappas said recalling other shifts and places he has worked. Wright agreed and appreciates the camaraderie they’ve formed. 

Note: There are women in South Salt Lake Fire Department, but none happened to be on the A shift at Station 43 at the time of reporting this story.