Local Detroit Firefighter Talks Ups, Downs of Job

t's a rush to feel that heat," says firefighter Sivad H. Johnson of the Detroit Fire Department. "It's on you to put that fire out. And that fire doesn't want to go out. It wants to consume everything in its path, including you."

Firefighters face extreme temperatures that average 1,000 F. Even when they're covered in layers of fireproof gear, that blazing inferno is almost unbearable. Being a firefighter, says Johnson, is about resisting the instinct to run.

"Its smart to have a little fear. If you don't have any fear, you just walk in oblivious to the possible dangers," Johnson says.

Johnson's fought fires in Detroit for 20 years. And he's faced many scary situations.
A few years back, a routine house fire took a nasty turn. Flames rushed in from the next room, blocking his exit.

"For a couple of minutes I had to think about me first."


Johnson was forced out of the home. He tried a different route to rescue a trapped woman.
"I go back in the front door behind the guys with the fire hose to find this lady. As we get upstairs, any exposed skin on my body, I could feel tingling, almost like little bug bites."

In the third room, he reached on a bed and felt a leg. "OK, I got somebody!'" he yelled. The woman died later in the hospital. It wasn't a happy ending, "but I definitely know without what we did, they wouldn't have even recovered her body."

As a second-generation firefighter, he's no stranger to the lifestyle-speeding courageously towards a hellfire, truck sirens blaring, usually in the dark hours of the morning, after already working a 24-hour shift.

"There are people at home waiting for me to return the next day, and I don't want to disappoint them. But I can't not do my job. I have a family."

Johnson says having trust in his skills, equipment and the other firefighters helps.
"We've got the city's back," he says.

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