It doesn’t get much more American than this guy. He’s a firefighter who followed in his father’s footsteps. He runs marathons in honor of fallen warriors. He even convinced an ER nurse to marry him. Tanner is this week’s #YOUAREGOVX member—A handyman, family man, Arizona fireman, and a GovX member since 2013.
What drew you to this line of work?
I watched my father serve his community for years. He was my biggest motivator, because I always admired how he interacted with people on and off the engine. Everyone knew him. He was like a celebrity, especially at the schools. And I just loved the environment at the station. The interaction of the crews, the sense of family. And when you add the overall goal of helping people by going out on calls, I became hooked. There’s honestly nothing else I have ever wanted to do.
There’s a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that’s the coolest part of this job. It’s like a big family here at the Kingman Fire Department. Even when there’s someone you don’t totally get along with, you still have their back, because they have yours. We all support each other, even outside of the fire house. I’ve helped people build sheds, remodel houses, and pour concrete. I’ve fixed cars, traded shifts with guys so they could surprise their wives … whatever we can do to help, we do.
Last year, a fellow firefighter suffered a family tragedy. It was extremely hard for him. Without waiting for him to ask, our department stepped up and covered two and half months of shift time for him so he could be with his wife. Not one of us asked for anything in return. To me, that’s an example of brotherhood at its finest.
You’ve served several years in the fire service. What changes have you noticed?
I remember coming up through the ranks and hearing the older guys talking about riding tailboard, and I used to think those guys were crazy. I remember back when I first got hired, I was I riding in a jump seat in a late 80s Pierce Arrow and thinking, ‘this is what I’m going to be telling my kid about some day.’
There’s so much that’s changed in the medical area as well. From Cardiocerebral resuscitation to modified spinal precautions, there’s plenty that’s different from the days when I took my EMT, and it became especially apparently when I taught my first EMT class three years ago.
But there’s consistency as well. The one constant in the fire service is the people. Firefighters always seem to be good, humble people who are just doing their jobs. Ordinary people in extraordinary situations. We roll with the change just like we continue to roll with the truck when calls go out. That’s what makes me so proud of this profession.
Do you have any stories you can tell us?
One fire that stands out was when I started as reserve and I got to work alongside my dad who was the captain at the time. I responded in a water tender and then got assigned to interior. That’s one of my most cherished memories: fighting one of my first fires with my dad on the interior.
Later in my career we had a house fire where we pulled out some unresponsive pets. I was the second due engineer, so I was able to provide oxygen and revive them. Even though the lady lost so much, she was so happy to have her cats back.
But of course, there are stories of loss as well. One of the worst situations I was in was when I had recently become a father. We ran a call on an infant girl, close to my daughter’s age, who’d been left in the car for several hours. Despite our efforts, she died. It was extremely difficult for me, and to work through it, I started a campaign to educate parents about the dangers of leaving kids in cars.
What living person do you most admire?
My dad. He had a rough childhood, but he taught me no matter how hard you have it, there’s always an option to come out successful. I watched him work up through the ranks to the level of Battalion Chief before he retired. YOU are your biggest motivator. There is no substitute for hard work and determination. He is living proof that when you hit rock bottom, you have nowhere to go but up.
Do you have a life motto?
Do the right thing when no one is looking. I think it is a great reminder to be good to people, especially when you aren't expected to.
When you're not in uniform, what do you enjoy doing for recreation?
My wife is a nurse here at the ER and we have two young children. My family and I love the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, exploring with our UTV. My parents have a little farm with horses, chickens, and cows, so the kids really get a kick out of that.
My wife and I have started taking up running, participating in a few 5k runs around the state. My daughter actually just ran her first 1k about a month ago. And, after we lost my brother-in-law in Afghanistan, we participated in the Pat Tillman run in Arizona in honor of his memory.
We like to live life to the fullest and have fun every day. I love golf. Off-roading with the UTV. Hanging out with my friends and family. And a little Xbox in the evenings is nice too.