For Burt, becoming a fireman was a #8216;dream#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's been his dream practically as far back as he can remember.

&#8220It was always something I wanted to do ever since I was old enough to understand what it was all about,” Jeff Burt says.

Fighting fires is what it's all about for Burt, who was recently named Greenville's Fire Fighter of the Year.

A four-year veteran of the Greenville Fire Department, the young man said he was &#8220surprised at first” by the award.

&#8220Now I just feel really honored to have received it,” Burt says.

&#8220I always look forward to going to work anyway, but this is an extra incentive for me to keep doing my job well.”

Before his dream could come true, the fire fighter had to get prepared for the demanding job.

Burt got his initial training at Dothan's &#8220rookie school,” a grueling course designed to get a future fire fighter physically and mentally prepared to take on a myriad of emergency situations.

&#8220We start with four-five weeks of EMT training. After that, we learn how to familiarize ourselves with the gear, including our self-contained breathing apparatus,” Burt explains.

Such training is essential to the fire fighter's safety.

&#8220Your life depends on that equipment in a house fire…if it doesn't work right, you could be in serious trouble,” he explains.

The students also learn how to control breathing, including techniques to help them conserve air when it's running low.

Many more lessons are learned in rookie school.

&#8220We practiced extractions, ladder safety; how to fight a fire through a window while on a ladder and performing ladder rescues,” Burt says.

Use of the all-important fire hose requires practice &#8220until you're sick of it,” he laughs.

&#8220You learn how to lay the hose out, how to choose your nozzle streams – every part of using the hose.”

Another course requires the future fire fighters to see just &#8220how far we could go” in full gear and air pack, Burt says.

&#8220We're carrying, I'd guess, an extra 60 to 70 pounds…this course pushes you until you can't go any farther and you drop. It's a great way to test your limitations.”

All the basics of fire fighting are covered in the training, Burt says, &#8220so we can deal with any emergency situation.”

The biggest personal challenge the slightly-built fire fighter has faced, has been one of size.

&#8220I am undersized compared to the typical firefighter, which means I have to work a little harder,” Burt says.

&#8220I've learned I have to do some things differently than the bigger guys, so I've come up with my own ways of approaching physical challenges.”

Getting a &#8220thank you” from someone he has helped gives him great satisfaction, Burt says.

&#8220Whenever someone comes by the station, or they call, send a card, bring a cake, things like that, just to say ‘thanks,' I really appreciate that. It means a lot to me.”

Burt and his wife Amber have a daughter, 14-month-old Abrianna, who is at &#8220a fun age.”

&#8220When I'm off, that's what I enjoy doing – spending time with my wife and my little girl.”

He also enjoys spending &#8220a little time doing some hunting.”

Burt's in it for the long haul, he says.

&#8220I plan to be here until I retire. When the day comes I am no longer able to physically do this job, that's when I will leave the firehouse.”