Brandon Bedinger has always been an athlete and competitor, always striving to push himself. When it came time for a new challenge in life, he found it at the Fire Academy at Schoolcraft College. Today he’s a part-time/paid on-call firefighter for the Van Buren Township Fire Department.

But those are just the basic facts of Brandon’s still-evolving story, which is one of perseverance, dedication and a willingness to give back – traits all firefighters share. It’s also a story of how being involved and active can lead to life-changing opportunities.

A native of Trotwood, Ohio, near Dayton, Brandon came to Eastern Michigan University to study Sports Medicine/Exercise Science, eventually earning a Master’s in Exercise Physiology. This led to several roles as a strength and conditioning coach, including a stint with the Detroit Lions.

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In addition to serving the Van Buren Township Fire Department, he’s also the Community Assistant & Strength and Conditioning Coach at Ann Arbor Skyline High School.

“I’ve always been an athlete but enjoyed the training aspect more than the actual sport,” Brandon explained. “I liked seeing how far you can push the body. Watching my own fitness and strength level improve as I trained provided me with ever-changing goals.”

He also enjoyed helping others reach their fitness goals. One of those people was a fire chief who suggested Brandon would make a good firefighter.

“At the time the fire chief was suggesting I join the service, my daughter was in between multiple open-heart surgeries and I never felt like I could take the time to do it,” Brandon said. “Before we went on (COVID-19) lockdown my daughter had her third and final heart surgery and soon after was released from the hospital. I felt like I could breathe.”

His daughter, who is nearly 4, is doing well. With that peace of mind, Brandon felt it was a good time to attempt something new.

“I felt like I needed a new challenge in life – something to train for to push myself and sharpen my edge,” he said. “I also wanted to do something my significant other and daughter could be proud of.”

By chance, he came across an individual struggling during a hot summer day.

“One summer day I recognized the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke in a gentleman running by the weight room, so I got him in a chair and started to cool him off while we waited for emergency medical services to arrive,” Brandon said. “That made my decision. I had the tools to help him, so why not get more tools for my tool box?”

He entered the Fire Academy at Schoolcraft College in 2020 and also studied in the EMT program.

“The training is very rigorous,” he said. “Morning workouts are challenging in general 7 a.m. warmup and an hour of cardiovascular training and strength training. After that a quick shower and then it’s to the classroom for book work and learning the concepts.

“The later part of the week consisted of practical application of the learned concepts. It’s a lot of information for the nine weeks of the academy. Weekly test, practical test all culminating in the state exam. You really have to bring your A-game.”

It’s all paid off as he begins to climb the ladder, so to speak, in his new career. In addition to making his family proud, Brandon wants to be an inspiration for underrepresented people to join him as a firefighter.

“I’d like to see more people of color and women join the fire service,” he said. “In the fire service 95% are male and 80% of those identify as white. That’s devastating in the sense that representation in every field is important. I want little girls and boys that look like me to know that serving your community comes in many shapes and forms. The fire service is just another option – a rewarding option.”