With all the roles they serve, it takes years before new firefighters learn the ins and outs to do the job well.
“For two to three years, you’re just going to follow around the other guys like a puppy dog,” Betzner said. “Even if you’re doing the training, you still don’t have any real experience. It’s going to take a while before we feel comfortable sending you out to drive the engine.”
Then there’s the not-so-exciting parts of the gig — keeping the fire stations clean, doing yard work, scrubbing down the bathrooms and cooking meals.
It’s all part of a day’s work for a Peru firefighter. A 10-man crew holds down the station every day from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. the next day, doing whatever needs to be done — saving lives, putting out fires or cleaning the bed sheets.
“When things need painted, we paint,” Betzner said. “When something needs fixed, we fix it. That’s the neat thing here. We have guys with all kinds of talents, and everyone is willing to help.”
And the cooking part? It’s a bigger deal than you might think. Betzner said all firefighters take turns making meals for their crew during their 24-hour shift at the station. If you serve up something less than appetizing, you’d better expect to hear about it.
“If you don’t know how to cook, they’re not very nice,” he said. “They’re kind of hard on you. Firemen are supposed to be good cooks, so if you throw something at them that’s not edible, they’re still ribbing you about it 10 years later. You learn to cook real fast.”
Peru firefighters may serve a hodgepodge of roles, but it’s all for one purpose — being ready, prepared and equipped to hit the road when duty calls.