Here at Mid-South Synergy, it’s no secret that some of our employees have very dangerous jobs. Whether working with high-pressure water systems or high-voltage electric grids, our employees make great efforts to practice safety every day in a generally dangerous industry.
That’s why we have so much respect for other dangerous occupations.
International Firefighters Day is May 4 this year. With that in mind, we want to recognize a few employees who not only work hard every day risking their life for their community but also choose to spend their free time as volunteer firefighters. These men and women truly put it all on the line.
While lineworkers are not always considered first responders, they are often among the first to be called to a scene involving electricity or power lines. For Mid-South employees Marcus Ginn and Dustin Gatlin, such situations mean receiving two calls to action.
Ginn, a Huntsville resident, has served as a volunteer firefighter for eight years and as a lineman at Mid-South Synergy for more than three years. “I joined the Crabbs Prairie Volunteer Fire Department in 2011, when Walker County was going through a difficult drought,” he said. “We had some of the largest wildfires this area has seen. The departments were depleted, and I wanted to help.”
Finding balance between the two vocations is a priority for Ginn and his family, and his ability to do so is something he takes pride in. “This one is tough because I have kids that are involved with sports and other activities,” he said. “Also, my wife works full time and is currently going to school as well. I don’t want to miss anything they do, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Whether I’m on call, at work or on a fire scene, we do as much as we can while we are together as a family. “
Gatlin, a volunteer at Madisonville Volunteer Fire Department and a Mid-South Synergy water crew member, is aware of the demands of double duty.
“Honestly, it is hard to manage time with your family because you never know when you will be called out to do your job,” he said. “You just do not take the time with your family for granted. The hardest part about being a volunteer firefighter is knowing that your ‘tone’ could go off at any moment, calling you away from the ones that you love. Looking at your kids on Christmas morning or your family at a big family gathering and telling them that you have to go is really hard. I think the key to making things easier is having a family that is supportive of the decision that you have made.”
Though they face many challenges, neither Gatlin nor Ginn would have it any other way.
“The best part about firefighting is [the] appreciation and thanks you get from the community when you help them at their worst time,” Ginn said.
And Gatlin agrees. “The look on a person’s face when you put the fire out that could have burned the house down or pull them out of a wrecked vehicle to get them to safety—that’s the best part,” he said.
Both men confess the most difficult part is working any scene involving a fatality.
Much like their crews here at Mid-South Synergy, the guys build strong bonds with the other volunteer firefighters they work with. In many ways, it’s similar to the brotherhood among linemen.
“In a way, it’s one and the same,” Ginn said. “I depend on them just as they depend on me. We have to get to know one another to gain trust so we can watch each other’s backs in dangerous situations. Some of the guys pick and joke with each other like brothers, but we are serious when the time comes.”
Gatlin also says the brotherhood he shares with his fellow firefighters is similar to that among the water crew at Mid-South. “We all laugh and joke with each other, but when it comes down to serious business or getting a job done safely, you know that your crew will have your back no matter the situation,” he said. “You have to look out for each other, keep each other safe.”
Gatlin said more people should consider volunteer firefighting. “You get to meet another group of people to call family, and you get to help others,” Gatlin said. “We have a lot of fun, even when you are not responding to a call.”
Ginn agreed that it’s a great opportunity.
“It’s a good thing when you give back to the community you live in, and you will have experiences you will never forget,” Ginn said.
Mid-South Synergy is a proud supporter of the volunteer fire departments in our communities, and getting involved is easy.
“One way that communities can give back to the fire department is with donations,” Gatlin said. “This is how we purchase all the gear and equipment that we have to be able to help the community in the time of need. Without the donations, it makes it hard to get up-to-date equipment that is needed. Being that we are a volunteer fire department, we all have other jobs that take us away from the fire department. When people can volunteer to help us out, that helps make up for the firefighters that are not able to be present.”
Ginn recommends community members offer their time or support whenever possible. “Most volunteer fire departments have fundraisers throughout the year that they rely on to operate,” he said. “Whether it’s for equipment, training, fuel and utilities, there are always needs.”
We would like to extend a big thank-you to Ginn and Gatlin for taking the time to visit with us about their work as volunteer firefighters. Join us May 4 to help recognize all firefighters internationally and the time they dedicate to their communities. We appreciate you!