Following in their father's boots
Following in their father’s boots
By Mike Van Sickle
Like father, like sons. For Kevin Wescott, that meant watching his two teenage sons Max and Grant follow in his footsteps as a Clermont firefighter.
By late November Kevin will have served on the local fire department for 20 years. Meanwhile, despite waiting for an opening to arise on Clermont’s 24-man roster, 19-year-old Max has completed his Firefighter I training. At the same time, 16-year-old Grant is an active member of the fire department’s junior firefighter program.
In addition to growing up watching their father and uncle Lee West serve on the Clermont Fire Department, Max and Grant have always been equally proud of their mom, who serves as a Clermont EMT, and uncle Lonnie West of Charles City, who serves on his respective community’s fire department.
Max believes his mom may have been a bit worried when he first expressed his sincere interest in becoming a firefighter a few years ago; he said she is “okay with” his decision now.
At the same time, Kevin said he is happy that his two sons wanted not only to serve their community, but they also wanted to commit themselves to the work, effort, and dedication that firefighting requires.
“You can’t force it (becoming a firefighter) upon anyone. It has to be in their blood. You have to have the will to get the job done and to get the job done right,” Kevin explained. “It’s not for everybody. We’ve had members step down after only a couple of weeks on the department, and that’s fine. They just discovered being a fireman wasn’t for them.”
Among the biggest changes Kevin has witnessed since the time he joined the local fire department nearly two decades ago and his sons’ recent commitment to firefighting are the advancements in safety equipment and an increase in required training.
Kevin and Max explain that safety is a featured component of Firefighter I training.
“You learn about not putting yourself in a bad situation,” said Max.
“It’s about calculated risks. People don’t realize that there are so many aspects to being a firefighter,” Kevin added. “Just the science part of a fire…what to look for in- and outside of a fire, when to get out of a building.
““There are no two fires or accidents that are the same. You have to adapt quickly and be accurate in your decisions,” he further explained. “No matter how difficult it may be, just the fact that someone is inside a burning building is not a reason to simply rush in. There are procedures we have to follow.”
While glancing over at his brother, Grant said, “We have both gotten different tips from the guys on the department. Everyone has his own way of doing things. At the same time, they are very quick in putting their heads together in coming up with solutions to problems that may arise.”
“Everyone here works so very well together,” added Max. “Everyone does what they are expected to do. It may be a common cliché, but there is no ‘i’ in team. It’s a true fact.”
While his brother awaits the opportunity to become an official member of the local fire department, Grant explained that as a Clermont FD junior fireman, he is not only assigned menial tasks, but is continually watching, learning, and training alongside the adult firefighters.
“If you make a mistake, they let you know it, and that is what we expect. You can’t ask for a better group of guys to work with,” said Max.
“Just because they’re my kids, they are not treated any different by any of the other members on the department, and I appreciate that,” added Kevin. “Just like in life, they (Max and Grant) have to grow up and make their own mistakes. It only makes them better.”
Have the experiences they have gained been what the Wescott siblings expected?
Grant answered, “I enjoy serving the community. It gives you such a great feeling when people show appreciation to you for the help that you provide. I believe if you have the will and discipline to serve the community, I say go for it.”
Agreeing with his younger brother, Max added, “I think it’s somewhat surprising that the little amount we do in the grand scheme of things has such a huge impact on not only the community, but also individuals.”
And what goes through a firefighter’s mind when his son may be on the scene of a fire and unwinding or hooking up a hose?
“I’m still a dad first, so a lot of times I will keep an eye on him (Max),” Kevin admitted. “But at the same time, I have a job to do and I don’t want to get someone mad or, even worse, cause someone harm because I’m not doing what I’m expected to do during an emergency situation.
“That’s what we have all of our safety training for, to learn how to work together and help assure the safety of everyone on the scene,” the proud father concluded.