BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They work 24 on and 48 off. They are firefighters, and they're responsible for the safety of thousands of citizens every time they report for duty. In this special report, we go inside the firehouse, for a rare and very personal look at what life is like inside and outside.
Two things especially stand out: A camaraderie you don't find in many places, and a dedication to duty that is truly inspiring.
I arrive just as dinner is being prepared. Everyone takes part in fixing the meal. And it's good. But the meal is interrupted by an unmistakable sound, the blaring sound of the Claxon Horn.
The men spring into action, answering the call for a fire alarm at a business. It turns out to be a false alarm and we head back to the station. That's a way of life in the firehouse.
Joe Boney is the fire chief. "It's a roller coaster, up and down. One minute you're sitting on the couch watching a good movie in a nice warm atmosphere and the next minute or so you're outside risking your life," Boney explained.
So why do they do it? Fireman Andy Kosper has an answer.
"To me, it's a passion. I enjoy what I do because I enjoy the fact that I go out there and we do things for the community to better serve them, to help them out, to teach and educate them and, of course, keep them safe," Kosper said.
Another call, this time for a medical emergency, and we're off again. The patient is stabilized, and the ambulance arrives. Medical training is a big part of the job for EMT Nick Dubuisson.
"We try to get as ready as we can for anything. It could be a stubbed toe, it could be a cardiac arrest, it could be a mass casualty incident," Dubuisson said. "You never know what you're going to be going to, so you want to be prepared for everything."
The crew works like a well oiled machine. Pat Ladner is a veteran firefighter.
"I know how the other guys think, they know how I think. When we get on scene and it's a big incident, I feel confident in everything they do and they feel confident with everything I do," Ladner said.
In this day and age with our smart phones, and tablets and laptops at our disposal, all this technological wonder at our fingertips. some folks may ask are the old fashioned fire poles actually used by firemen responding to a call, or are they simply a reminder of a simpler time. It's actually a little of both.
"It's mostly just for speed. Speed and to keep us from using the stairs," Fireman Gabe Haynes explained. "As far as this pole, we used it on the old station. Our original station sat behind this station right here. This pole actually came from it and we carried it over for tradition."
Time to settle down and relax a bit. Those smart phones help take off the edge, as does the TV. The men have grown close over the years, according to Ladner.
"It seems like I see them more than I see my own family, but they are part of my family also. We get along great, have a good time. It's great."
Time to get some shut eye, never knowing when that sleep will abruptly end. But it's a quiet night.
Daylight brings equipment and tactical training, this time dealing with a possible hazmat situation. Physical training for the demanding job is also a must, according to Kosper.
"It takes a lot. We do a lot of cardio, a lot of crossfit, a lot of running, a lot of weight training. We do a lot of extensive things to keep ourselves in shape for the job."
That job includes saving lives, like these two young girls caught in a house fire two years. Tom Murphy is the battalion chief.
"The crew that was inside located them, and passed them through a window to the crews waiting outside and we began resuscitation right in the front yard of the residence," Murphy recalled.
He also said it's a memory that will last forever.
"That's the highlight of my 25 years on the fire department. It's not often you get to save somebody. You get to see a lot of death and destruction. It's rare that you actually get to save a life."
A tribute to the crew hangs on the wall of the firehouse.
It's also a reminder of a rare and worthy calling for Chief Boney. "There's a true inner need in a fireman to help people, truly help people."
The city of Biloxi has 148 people working in the fire department. The average starting salary for a firefighter is $36,000 a year.
Despite being on duty 72 hours a week, and because of the two day stretch between shifts, many firefighters work other part time jobs to supplement their income.