Meet the River City Gang
Members of the crew of Fire Station 8, located near the Stockyards and the Oklahoma River, are known as the River City Gang. These are the blue shift personnel members in July and August:
Maj. Brad Smith, 41
•Tenure: 14 years of service
•Background: Former University of Tulsa football player and Edmond North High School teacher and football coach
•In his own words: “It was a chance to give back to the community where I was raised. I'm an Oklahoma City guy, born and raised on the south side. This is my city. I never served in the military, so this was another way I saw to give back.
“There's a lot of responsibility. You're in charge of nine other people here, making
sure they're safe on incidents. I wouldn't say it's a burden, but it's a huge responsibility. One
that I don't take lightly. And then on top of that, with all the special operations responsibilities
we have as a station, it's a lot, but it's something I relish.”
Capt. Brad Tobin, 42
•Tenure: 18 years of service
•Background: Former auto body mechanic
•In his own words: “Being a firefighter is great. You get to ride in the back of the rig and your responsibility is a lot less. As a captain, you're ultimately responsible for everyone underneath you, so you put a lot more thought into the decisions you're going to make. As a firefighter, you're gung-ho and go, go, go, go. As an officer, you're ultimately responsible for those guys and on a rescue, we're going to risk a lot. As the guy in charge, we've got to weigh those options.”
Lt. Josh Pearcy, 33
•Tenure: Nine years of service
•Background: Former volunteer Tonkawa firefighter and 2-year veteran of the Chickasha Fire Department
•In his own words: “I always wanted to do it since I was a little kid, so I got on as a volunteer right after I turned 18. I did that to see if I liked it. It was an easy way to get a feel for it, and it just kind of stuck. Going in real house fires, really going after somebody, that's like the top. That's what you do a lot of training for and a lot of hours spent doing a lot of stuff for what could just be a few seconds in time. You could train for years before you get those kind of moments.
“Some of the technical rescue stuff is so few and far between. It's intimidating because you can never create every scenario that's going to be thrown at you. We can train on basic principles and then try to apply those principles in complex situations. And then you throw in that officer role on top of that. We've trained for years, we've practiced it, we know our jobs, but now there are more dynamics to it. You just break it down into small problems. Start with one thing, fix it, fix another thing and start chewing through it.”
Lt. Cort Smith, 38
•Tenure: Eight years of service
•Background: 12-year Air Force veteran, former National Security Agency linguist
•In his own words: “Going from a uniform service to wearing a shirt and tie as a civilian did not fit well with me at all, so getting back into a uniform was a good transition. The chain of command is like a security blanket for me. I love being able to just read a guy's shirt and know immediately if I need to listen to him or he needs to listen to me.
“The camaraderie on the fire department is much, much better than anything I saw in the Air Force. The fire department on its worst day is so much better than the Air Force was on its best day.
“I definitely want to make major. I'd like to make chief some day if I can. I don't know if that's in the cards, but we'll see. I'm so much more suited to this kind of work. Immediately when I got into rookie school, I was like, ‘Yeah, I made a good call here.' “
Cpl. Rusty Blackmon, 34
•Tenure: Four years of service
•Background: Former Tennessee high school math and wrestling coach
•In his own words: “You do something different every day. You stay pretty busy and are around motivated people all the time. Everybody gets along.
“It's a big learning curve. You learn so much stuff being here from so many people. Most of these guys, they teach on their days off.”
Cpl. Joe Childers, 33
•Tenure: Five years of service
•Background: Former Marine and Iraq veteran
•In his own words: “You go through similar training together, you work hard together and then you get back and you talk about it together. You all go through the tough times together and you kind of deal with it all together. It makes it all a lot to deal with, but this is a lot more fun.”
“I had a lot of family that was in the military and so public service just in general is something I've always been interested in. I know it's not for everybody, but for the people that enjoy it and people that get into it, it's an incredibly humbling job, but at the same time it's an incredibly self-fulfilling job. I don't know if it gets some of the glamour of some of these other high-paying business jobs, but just the amount of self-fulfillment you get it from it, I believe is unmatched by any other job. And for me, I just go home and I talk to my wife and I can't be more proud of the people I work with and the people I work for and the things that I get to do.”
•Tenure: Four years of service
•Background: Former six-year veteran of the Del City Fire Department
•In his own words: “I've always been into all the rescue programs, and with a smaller department, I didn't quite have the opportunity to be able to use some of those skills, so I kind of knew this is the station I wanted to be at to get into the technical rescue. This is an extremely aggressive and progressive department. We stay on top of things, always training and trying to stay ahead of the game.”
“It's always challenging, always different, something new. It's never the same thing, which
goes along with the job itself. There's always new ways of doing things and running into obstacles which we've never seen before.”
Firefighter Miguel Baez, 36
•Tenure: Three years of service
•Background: Former production supervisor for DuPont International in Tampico, Mexico
•In his own words: “The Oklahoma City Fire Department has a bunch of history and I'm a first-generation immigrant from Mexico, so having my kids here, I saw that as an opportunity right out of the bag to give them some values, history, respect to others and give extra for the community. Right there, it's going to be like a legacy I leave to my kids. I think that's my biggest motivation, my family. They're little. My daughter is 6 years old, and my son is 4. They're everything to me, and I want them to be proud of me and to teach them right.
“It's a great group. It doesn't seem like coming to work. You have a good crew, you do the things that you like. We do have long days sometimes because we train a lot and run calls and wake up in the middle of the night, but still we do a bunch of public relations with the schools and participate in their events. There are a bunch of Hispanic kids. I'm not saying I'm the greatest or anything like that, but seeing someone else that is Hispanic and make it into the fire department can give them a little bit of inspiration. We try to encourage kids and young people.”
Firefighter Richard Lawrence, 35
•Tenure: Nearly three years of service
•Background: Former Air National Guard firefighter, Tinker Air Force Base firefighter and five-year veteran of the Midwest City Fire Department
•In his own words: “I knew what I wanted to do since the eighth grade, and that was because of the Murrah Building. I would have been 14 at the time. I've been doing it since I was 20. It just took me a while to figure out where I was going to end up.
“We always talk about keeping your neighbors happy, whether it's just the neighborhood behind us or the people on the highway. We're theirs as much as anything. We're their firehouse, and we have enough of a reputation in the neighborhood. They know when they call us that they're going to get provided a service that's immeasurable.”
Firefighter Wade Porter, 31
•Tenure: Nearly two years of service
•Background: Former Forest Park volunteer firefighter, six-year veteran of the Spencer Fire Department, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran
•In his own words: “We've got quite a variety of guys with military background or football or some sort of athletics. It's a pretty diverse group. I think that's what kind of makes this group so unique is the diversity that all of us have.
“I always wanted to do urban search and rescue. Coming to Oklahoma City, my goal was to be at this station. The first year I was here, I did all my ropes classes, my confined spaces, structural collapse. Basically everything you need to get over here. Being at a technical rescue station, that was a big driving force for me. Ultimately, this is where I decided to come.”
Matt Dinger, Staff Writer