Firefighters, paramedics see careers as calling

Published 4:41 pm Monday, June 7, 2010

“There is no other feeling like the gratification that I feel when I’m able to help someone in their darkest moments or time of need,” said Chelsea Fire and Rescue paramedic Ben Hostetter.

While in high school he wanted to go into forensic pathology or nursing, he said. But after graduation in 1996, he attended a meeting at a fire department, and “that’s all she wrote.” He’s been in firefighting ever since.

Fire Chief Wayne Shirley echoed Hostetter’s sentiment. He grew up going to the station with his dad, a volunteer firefighter, and since then has always enjoyed helping people, he said.

To reach their present positions, both men studied to become certified as first responder and EMT (emergency medical technician), then as paramedics.

Shirley became a fire department volunteer while in high school and began paramedic school after graduation.

Working for 17 years at another station, he advanced to captain and became chief at Chelsea 10 years ago.

He was recently accepted for the fifth year into the National Fire Academy.

“I am proud and grateful to get to do a job I love in my home community,” Shirley said. “I am also blessed to get to work with a fantastic staff of firefighters and paramedics.”

I learned a little about this “fantastic staff,” when transported to the emergency room by paramedic Hostetter and driver Tommy King.

Later, they and Chief Shirley showed me through their miniature ER on wheels.

A few of the items it includes are oxygen bottles and masks, IV fluids and needles, splints, medication, burn blankets, OB kits for delivering babies and an amazing little portable heart monitor.

The monitor registers heart rhythm, measures oxygen levels in the blood, takes blood pressure and pulse rate, allows paramedics to deliver electrical shocks and monitor carbon dioxide exhaled. The paramedic then calls ER to report his findings.

“There is not a job in the world right now, or any amount of money, that would cause or make me not want to be a firefighter/paramedic,” Hostetter said. “I absolutely love what I do.”

Shelba Nivens can be reached by e-mail at