COLUMN: Childhood dream realized
Palace City Profiles is an ongoing series of community members' stories, introducing us to our neighbors and the personalities that call Mitchell home. If you have suggestions for individuals or families with a great story, please contact Jacki M...
Palace City Profiles is an ongoing series of community members' stories, introducing us to our neighbors and the personalities that call Mitchell home. If you have suggestions for individuals or families with a great story, please contact Jacki Miskimins at 996-1140.
Every year, hundreds of children tour the fire station and meet the Mitchell Fire/EMS team; and nearly all of them decide that they want to be a fireman someday. For firefighter/EMT Justin Adams, that goal never changed.
"That's the big joke in my family," he said. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a fireman. And I just never grew out of that phase."
It's a career choice he made young, but not lightly. Adams took time to explore the world of public safety through the World of Work class at Mitchell High School.
"I was 17 when I started, and I did a full year of working with the team here. That was extremely helpful in determining that this really was what I wanted to do," he says. "The guys were willing to show me how things work, where things go. For example, how to pull the hose off the truck, or going out to the actual calls, seeing what they do and how they operate -- it was really hands-on."
The experience solidified the childhood dream.
"I was hooked," he said, laughing. During his World of Work commitment, he began formally training to become a firefighter after high school. Shortly after graduation in 2005, Adams completed an EMT class -- required for all Fire/EMS Division employees.
"Then I just waited for a job to open."
Before joining the Mitchell Department of Public Safety team in 2008, Justin tried other career paths waiting for a job with Mitchell Fire/EMS to be available. At every turn, his work was hands-on: welding at Trail King, painting and finishing at Quality Wood Designs, even building fire trucks for a short time at Crimson Fire in Brandon. But despite a career defined by hands-on action, it is the human element that inspires Adams.
"I help people for a living," he explained. "Everything from giving a teddy bear to a kid who's in the ambulance, and they're scared or sick, and you get to help them feel less afraid. Or someone fell and they can't get off the floor by themselves, and you help them back up. It just gives you goose bumps when you see someone on the street -- and you saved their life."
Adams admits that it's not the easiest line of work.
"It can be difficult. You're home, your kids are sleeping, and there's a call. Not showing up is not an option. It's part of the commitment -- when the community needs you, you go."
That commitment to serving the community helps offset some of the challenges of being a firefighter, and Adams is glad he was able to pursue his career in a city he cares about.
"I have two daughters to think about. They're in dance and ice skating, and in the summer we're always at the parks or the swimming pool. Compared to other cities, even compared to Sioux Falls, Mitchell is really safe."
Instilling that mindset of safety is one of Adams' favorite parts of the job.
"We're always talking with kids, showing them what we look like in all of our gear, so if they're ever in an emergency situation they aren't afraid of us. And that's really fun, because who doesn't like to look at fire trucks? The kids love it, just like I did," Adams.
Maybe one of those kids will become a firefighter someday and the story will continue. For Adams, it's a story he gets to live out every day: a childhood dream, a high school class, and a lifelong career -- right here in Mitchell.