As little kids jump with joy and homeless people display peace signs toward the fire truck driving away from a minor accident in the Wal-Mart parking lot resulting in no injuries, all Firefighter Jason Lockett can say is that he is just enjoying the ride.
Lockett, a 25-year-old from Talent, OR, idolized his father who was a firefighter, which inspired him to want to become one as well his whole life. Even though he has experienced the difficult parts of firefighting, such as keeping his emotions in tact on serious calls, he is happy with pursuing his dream for the past few years. He has been a firefighter in Eugene for two years after volunteering and working in Astoria, OR.
Daily tasks at the station include getting certifications online, in-house training, drills, truck driving lessons and hardly a good night’s sleep. “It can be frustrating when you come back from a call, take your boots off, start to lay down and the alarms go off,” Lockett says. Even on nights that go without an alarm, it is hard for firefighters to sleep because they are always keeping a mindset of being ready to answer a call. They have to be ready for everything and anything at all times. Lockett says that being a firefighter means being motivated, being able to push yourself hard. He adds that he has to be a good with people and be able to handle anyone on their worst day.
The training and required tests leading up to getting the job as a firefighter truly weed out the people who are not qualified, Lockett says. Lockett still remembers how difficult it was. After getting his fire science degree from Southwestern Oregon Community College, he worked as a volunteer for two years to build his resume. It then took him two years to get hired due to the competiveness in the field. “It’s pretty hard; there will be 100 candidates for every one position,” Lockett says. Once hired, firefighters go through a probation period where they have to prove themselves to the rest of the crew. For one year they have a big test every three months and must constantly be prepared to answer any question asked by the rest of the crew. That did not bother Lockett, he says: “It’s a year of sacrifice for a great 30-year career.”
Lockett considers his crew another family. He says they develop a sort of brotherhood being at the station together and working such an intense profession. They all count on each other and bring something to the table as a part of the crew. Todd Smith, a fellow firefighter at Station 10, says he thinks “Jason’s young, he brings a lot of the physical aspect to the crew,” Smith is teasing Lockett a little because while the physical aspect of being a firefighter is crucial, the job requires a well-rounded person to qualify.
Lockett says he used to be pretty careless when it came to putting himself in danger. When he rode is 4-wheelers it was always about how fast he could go, whereas now he thinks about the consequences first. He has become more of a well-rounded person after joining the firefighting circle. “I’m more responsible, more reserved because I never thought about getting hurt,” he says. Now that he has witnessed how people get into trouble he realizes how much he has to lose.
On his first call as a firefighter he reported to a man that went into cardiac arrest. “I gave him CPR the entire way to the hospital and he made it. I saw how destroyed life could be in one moment and how happy it was after,” he says. Lockett recalls how life changing his first real experience as a firefighter was and how it reassured him that he had chosen the right profession.
Lockett loves his job for everything he gets to do as well as everything he gets back from it. The embracing crew, the good retirement benefits, the kids that look up to him but mostly for how rewarding it feels whenever he helps someone.
“I wake up and it’s like, sweet I get to go to work today! And I don’t think many jobs are like that.”