Walter ‘Walt’ Bailey
Published 10:50 am Monday, July 15, 2019
Q: How many years have you been with the department?
A: I am a career firefighter and have worked 47 years.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities?
A: I act as the CEO, which involves financing and delegating duties and also care for the fire station and grounds.
Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: About 90 percent of the work is prep. We go through mail, speak with insurance companies and carry out basic duties at the station. We do all this until a call comes in, then we gear up and head out.
Q: How long have you wanted to be a firefighter? Why?
A: I became involved with fire departments when I was 13. My father and uncle started their own fire station and I grew up around that. Even my earliest memory was a barn that went up in flames; I’ve always wanted to fight fires.
Q: What are some little-known aspects of the job people wouldn’t guess you do?
A: The fire house is a home away from home, both figuratively and literally. This means that the same household chores need to be maintained and carried out. This is everything you would expect like taking care of the landscape, doing dishes, cleaning, etc.
Q: What training was required for you to reach your position?
A: While I received a degree in fire sciences, most firefighters average about 300 hours of state training, even more for EMS. This comes from a range of courses, and you have to constantly get recertified so the training never truly ends.
Q: What are some of the challenging/rewarding aspects of the field?
A: A lot of fundraising is necessary to stay up to date. As the years have gone by costs have gone up but funding hasn’t — creating a vacuum. Because of this volunteers have to work extra hard on and off the job. The rewarding aspects are being able to help your fellow neighbor. That is what this group was founded on.
Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?
A: I think of myself as a good neighbor and this is just an extension of that. I love to be active in the community and help where I can.
Q: Is there any information or story you’d like to add about your service to the department that I haven’t asked about, or you’d like people to know?
A: I’m very concerned for fire and EMS services around the world. It is not a problem local to Phenix, Charlotte County, Virginia or the U.S — it is a problem worldwide. Departments are losing funding and even more heartbreaking they are losing volunteers. This is fulfilling work and the people doing it are genuine and courageous, but there aren’t enough of them. The volunteer fire stations were founded on “neighbor helping neighbor,” and I would hate to lose that.