By Anne Eickstadt

COURTESY PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Captain Greg Holmes retires after over 27 years with the Belvidere Fire Dept.

Editor

“In the mid ‘80s I worked with my dad in the family’s construction company,” said Belvidere Fire Dept. Captain Greg Holmes. “During a slow time, I saw an ad in the Belvidere Daily Republican newspaper for firefighters. It sounded interesting and I thought, ‘Lets try it and see what happens.’

“I took the testing and made the hiring list. I did not get hired that time but I took the testing again and was hired to work with the BFD part-time. Eventually Fire Chief Paul Moses offered me a full-time position.

“I have worked with three captains – Mike Rogers, Bill Toff, and Jerry Larson – and all three were good. Mike Rogers was my primary captain. I spent most of my time with Mike. I learned a lot from him, he was a great captain.

“I have completed 27 years for the BFD and I have started my 28th year. It’s been a good – a real good – career. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of great guys. Overall, a wonderful bunch of guys. The city has done an excellent job of hiring good people.

“I am very fond of the guys. They are doing a great job.

Looking back

“We have had some calls that weren’t so good over the years. We’ve had fires where people did not make it out. Then I remember all the fires where everyone did get out and we had a lot of grateful people. Those had a good outcome. It makes us feel good that we are able to help someone. Everyone on the team pretty much knows their job and what is expected of them, and they get the job done.

“I look back to when I started and the way we ran the fire department. Chief Moses, who hired me, was the chief until the mid to late ‘90s. After him was interim Chief Bob McClain. Tim Morocco was chief for less than a year. Then came Chief Dave Worrell. Chief Hyser was next.

“The chief(s) always pushed for better training and better equipment. I could see it then and it has continued on. The chief(s) keeps pushing for improvements and the guys are eager to learn and do a better job.

“Each chief has continued moving the department forward: water rescue; technical rescue training and equipment; trench rescue which we needed when there was a collapse at the Sonic building site years ago. The trench collapsed and we had to do a rope rescue. That was a good outcome. Everyone here is trained in rope operations.

“One firefighter skill which we keep working on in basic skills is working as a team, working together. When the guys are doing everything they have been trained to do and everything comes together – it’s a good feeling.

“There came a time when we decided that we needed to make improvements in the command structure and the way we work on scenes. We have worked on it. Our work shows that we are involved, with everyone moving forward and constantly improving. It’s a good feeling. The department is in good hands. It will keep going.

“If you go upstairs (at the State St. station), you will see several comfy chairs. In reality, the guys never have the chance to use them. They arrive at 7 a.m. or p.m. [firefighters run 12 hour shifts] and prepare for the day by putting their equipment onto the engine and exchanging information with the outgoing shift.

“By 10 a.m. everyone in the station is training if there isn’t a call. They will train until 12 or 2 p.m. and then they will start on station maintenance, repairs, and cleaning. They make sure the equipment is cleaned after every run. They will do inspections and we have four guys that are trained inspectors to NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] standards.

“Each chief is putting 100 percent into leaving the position better than when he got it. The next guy will have to work hard to fill the position when the chief leaves.”

Funny story

“I remember at the beginning of my career, we got a call of a near drowning at the park pool. When we got there, the lifeguards were getting the child out of the pool. We got the child on the gurney with an oxygen mask. The captain talked to employees and was assured that the boy’s mother had been called. ‘She’ll probably be…

For complete article, pick up the Nov. 29 Belvidere Republican.