Brotherhood — baptized in fire

CarolinaFireJournal - Willie Wimmer
Willie Wimmer
10/05/2012 -

Well brothers and sisters of the fire service I am writing about the firefighter of my life for once and not the apparatus side, so please keep reading. I recently attended the South Atlantic Expo in Raleigh and the Brotherhood was definitely felt. I have been in the fire service for 16 years now and I have slowly felt the bonds and relationships as a fireman slip away, but after the Capitol Fools had the Brotherhood bash during the Expo, I realized I was wrong and that we all just need a little refreshing now and then. We have to remember that we are a family outside of our biological family and we have to take care of all of us. A wise man once said it takes a village to raise a child. Well, for me and a lot of you out, there it takes a firehouse to raise a child but sometimes we forget that.


We have new young members that join every month and we need to groom them into the people that most of us are. I remember when I joined my first fire department. I thought I was on top of the world and after looking back I actually was. All of my fellow brothers and sisters in that firehouse took care of me and made me into the man I am today. But I see day in and day out the routine of gathering at someone’s house every month or just having a cookout is somewhat gone. I know we are all busy but we go into some pretty serious situations with each other and a little camaraderie and socializing goes a long way. We go to our family for Christmas and holidays but we probably actually spend more time with the fire and rescue family than we do with our own.

Jay Bettencourt was the recipient of the Firefighter of the Year award. While listening to the story for the award I began to feel the brotherhood that Jay Bettencourt felt and that we should all feel. Jay Bettencourt is on the Asheville Fire Department and was on the job July 28, 2011 at 445 Biltmore Ave where Captain Jeff Bowen lost his life. While performing a search, conditions deteriorated and an exit needed to be found. Mr. Bettencourt, even though he was running low on air and in danger, left his captain to find an exit. The exit was found and he had the chance to leave at that point. He returned to his captain and pulled him to the stairway exit. He continued to try to move his captain until Bettencourt collapsed from exhaustion. He put his life on the line for his fellow brother and captain without thinking twice. Congratulations for an award well deserved. The night before this award was presented, the Capitol Area Fools gave the Asheville Fire Department enough money to go to Emmetsburg, Maryland to honor their fallen brother. The guys from the Fools only knew them from the events that occurred — there was no prior tie. These men and women worked hard to raise money and to give it to fellow brothers who would use it for a good cause. This is what brotherhood is about.

The brotherhood has been around for decades — as long as the fire service has been in business and yet we sometimes let it slip away and only find it when it is convenient or when it is needed. Well, in my opinion it is needed everyday of our lives, not just when something happens. We never know when that something may happen and I myself do not want it to be too late. Why is it that we have lost the brotherhood? I myself do not know and I am sure I’m not alone in this thinking. But, we need to make sure we find it. Some of you are probably getting ready to tell the new recruit to go find the brotherhood on the truck and I would probably do the same thing to be honest.

We are all in this business for the same job and we need to remember we are all brothers and sisters baptized by fire. We have to look out for one another and take care of our own when they are in need. We do not need to kick them when they are down. I see people trying to stab others in the back for advancement. If you don’t advance up the chain you either didn’t deserve it or you were not ready for it. Don’t take it out on your fellow brothers and sisters. We as firefighters need to get back in the brotherhood aspect and do it every day — not just when we feel it to be cool.

Again, congratulations to Mr. Bettencourt and the Asheville Fire Department for the award and from my department and my brothers: condolences for your loss. To the Capitol Area Fools you all know who you are — thank you for the brotherhood experience that you share with us every year and the hard work that is put into it. I also want to share a special thanks to the staff and the board members of the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association for a job well done on the Expo, as well as the brotherhood for their fellow firefighters donating their time to attend legislation that will affect us in the fire service.

Willie Wimmer (owner/head mechanic) started working for KME in 1996 while in school and continued to work there until 2007 when he relocated to the Outer Banks. He started with KME building trucks, moved into repairs and fi nished by traveling across country repairing trucks, selling and training on the apparatus. He has been an active volunteer fi refi ghter since 1996.
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