My name is Russell Stine, I’m a Fire Fighter/Paramedic (FFP) for the Memphis Fire Department in Memphis, TN. My story starts out like many of my other colleagues, and that was with a boyhood dream of those big red (or in some cases around where I grew up, yellow) fire engines and ambulances going to calls in and around where I lived. It seems that everything I did in my childhood reflected a desire for public service (or that I was a glutton for punishment) or came back around to it. I followed my dad along to CPR classes he taught for the American Red Cross in the early 1990′s, so I guess it kept that dream alive.
I wasn’t really formally introduced to the fire/ems wold until 1998. I joined the local Fire Explorer Post (at the time, Xenia City Fire Explorer Post #29, now Xenia Township Fire Explorer Post #29, that story is coming up) and after a few meetings was allowed to begin ride along time. I still remember the first day I rode an ambulance. It was with two Firefighter/Paramedics, one was Joe Mullikin and Lauren Ackenhausen, and my first call was a respiratory distress that to them seemed almost routine.
I stayed with the post for some time (4 years) eventually becoming the post leader simply because there wasn’t anyone left willing to do it. In 2002 the post faced a crisis: the city had decided not to renew our charter because there were no personnel willing or able to be advisors. This was almost a fire service tradition there, because the post had existed for over 20 years prior to me, so I felt obligated to find a new home. By chance, I had met several former members who were now firefighters for the local volunteer department (Xenia Township) and when I told them what was happening, we set to work to move the post. This was accomplished by an act of the Xenia Township Trustees in mid-2002 (don’t remember the exact date) and I was awarded a Learning for Life Leadership Award by the Tecumseh Council of the Boy Scouts of America shortly before I left for college in August 2002. I also recieved my first certification that year, the Ohio 36 Hour Firefighter card, which I had completed as an Explorer in the Summer of 2000, this time it counted, and it saved me some headache later on.
I went to college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The funny part was that it was the only college I applied to, and I was accepted before I had even visited the campus. I majored in Fire Protection and Safety Technology, which it is a very prestigious school for that, one of the first fire service programs in the country. It was quite a culture shock going from having your own space to having to share it with a room mate. I survived, and a little bit of SoCal rubbed off on me (not too much though).
During my academic tenure at OSU I fell in with the fire service crowd, the people that either were or wanted to be firefighters. Some of them were a little extreme, but they were a good group of guys. Interesting enough most of them are now corporate engineers. I guess the fire service only appeals to a select few. I volunteered while I was out there for Rock Creek Township, a rural service in southeastern Noble County. We covered north of Highway 51 all the way up to just south of Perry, OK, and east from the county line to I-35 to the west. We rarely ever did anything, car crash or brush fire here or there. Anytime we made a structure, it was usually long gone before we got there, but that’s to be expected when you’re a volunteer and you cover hundreds of square miles.
Not much happened while I was away at school, and my sophomore year I moved into suites with some friends, but that broke apart after a semester due to family issues and others. I really bloomed my sophomore year, I spent more time on the party scene, in addition I earned my EMT -B license in Oklahoma during the spring semester, which would have been January through June 2004. It was a weekend class, so I was in class for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday for a few months. I passed NREMT the first time, taking it before spring break in March, and I was at home for break so I recieved my packet 2 weeks ahead of everyone else. I used it to my advantage my junior year and started working part time for Environmental Health Services at OSU, kind of like a first response group for large events, etc. I had to learn to intubate in order to transition my EMT-B card to Ohio, which was 12 hours of con ed I was able to count.
I participated in a Firefighter I class that was done specifically for students between my sophomore and junior years. When I applied for reciprocity in Ohio, it was initially rejected because it didn’t meet the hour requirement (the Oklahoma class was only 80-something hours, Ohio required 120 at minimum). However, remember the 36 hour card? I was able to count Firefighter I as a “transition” class, so I got by that hurdle rather easily. My junior year I was elected Training Officer, as I was already a Fire Instructor (earned in my sophomore year) and I put together a string of classes quickly to get some success early. It pretty much coasted on after that.
My senior year was pretty uneventful, just finishing up to graduate, which I did in June of 2006. I searched for jobs in the private sector as an engineer but no such luck. I started working for an ambulance company called Med-Trans, Inc based in Springfield, OH in August that year. I was working the night shift and paying off the debts that followed higher education. It struck me in November to try and get into a paramedic school. I shopped around, the program closest to me was longer than I would have liked, another would require me to take more classes before I got in, so I setlled on Grant Medical Center’s program in Columbus and was accepted in December, starting January 2007.
I spent 8 long months working nights and commuting 70 miles to class and clinicals, and rarely did I ever sleep at home. I spent most of my time at work, which either had an ample supply of bed space or I had to improvise. When they shut down my regular night shift, I was moved to a contract work the company was involved in with CareFlight based at Miami Valley Hospital. I spent many more long hours driving a very large MICU around the southern and middle part of the state, but the education I received tertiary to that was beneficial, and many of the paramedics and flight nurses helped me study or go over skills. When NREMT and I met again, it was the first year of the CBT. It shut off at 87 questions… I tested on a Friday so I was biting my nails all the way up until Monday morning, when the word came in. PASS.
During the idle time I had at clinicals, I studied for my department’s (now Xenia Township, I was “hired” in August of 2004) lieutenant’s test, which I scored at the top of list, having only 3 years on and most of that spent on leave of absence. I did some time as a temporary lieutenant, working primarily on the rescue and the ambulance. I made 1 house fire as an acting lieutenant on Engine 51. That was in November of 2007. I also used the time after medic school to take Firefighter II, which saved me even more time later.
So, I waited a few more weeks for my Ohio license to come, and many more days of testing to my region’s protocols, then 90 days of field training with another medic which started in October. I finished that training just in time to be hired at Memphis, which started January 2008.
I spent another 6 months in classroom, redoing the fire stuff I had done the previous year, then another 3 months in field training, and was assigned to Engine 27 B/Unit 22. This was a special operations company and as I was not qualified, I ended up riding the ambulance most of my time there. In October of 2008 I was offered an opporutnity to transfer to Engine 23 C/Unit 15, and did so. I am currently assigned to this company with two other paramedics. Engine 23 protects areas of Memphis called Douglass Park and Nutbush, part of the old city build around 1950. We respond to around 3000 calls for service a year, with approx 80% of those being EMS related.