Husband-wife team adept at pitching in

Generally speaking, Mike and Kelly Holland are an average couple, raising two teenagers, Cody and Rylee, in their log home along Brush Road in Warren Township.

Kelly, a licensed practical nurse, works for Drs. Mike Brockett and Ken Leopold at Marietta Memorial Hospital, while Mike is in the materials handling department at Solvay Specialty Polymers.

At the end of a long day the Hollands look forward to a quiet evening at home with the children-unless a wreck, fire, or some other emergency arises.

Mike and Kelly are both members of the Warren Township Volunteer Fire Department. Kelly’s a paramedic and Mike a firefighter.

“When the kids were young we’d fight over who would respond when we were toned out,” Mike laughed. “All the motorcycle accidents were hers, and the vehicle accidents would be mine.”

The children are older now, so both parents are free to answer the emergency calls.

Mike, 45, is first captain with Warren VFD, while Kelly, 48, is the medical squad’s assistant chief.

Question: How long have you been volunteers with the fire department?

Answer: Mike: I’ve done this for 21 years now, and started as a junior fireman in Graysville where I grew up. I guess that’s where I got fire in my blood, helping to rescue people from fires and going on emergency runs.

Kelly: I’ve served for 17 years with Warren VFD, but I was also a first responder in the mid-1990s at Cytec Industries near Belmont, W.Va. I received my emergency medical technician certification in 1994 and was a basic EMT for 10 years before becoming a paramedic.

Q: Both jobs can be difficult as well as dangerous, and you’re not paid. Why volunteer?

A: Kelly: I saw a need. I had my EMT certification and nursing license, but I was frustrated because there were some things I couldn’t do for patients during an emergency run, so I took a course and obtained my paramedic certification.

Mike: You have to love what you do to be an effective volunteer firefighter or paramedic. I was able to start out as a junior fireman and participated in emergency runs back in Graysville. Junior firemen can’t do that anymore because it’s too much of a liability. And this is not for everybody. I understand that it’s difficult for people to find the time while working a 40-hour week.

Q: You can be toned out at any time of day or night. Don’t first responders get exhausted?

A: Mike: There was a study that showed fighting a structure fire is equal to working an eight-hour day. Sometimes you don’t get a lot of sleep. If we’re out for a long time I may not go back to bed but take a shower and go off to work a full day. And that night I’ll sleep really well.

Kelly: That’s when you’re younger. The older you get, the more difficult it is to bounce back so quickly.

Q: In spite of those issues, people still volunteer. But there are some qualifications required?

A: Mike: Yes. Firefighters must know CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and basic first aid. And by law we do have to have 24 hours a year of continuing education. You have to be able to document that training in case you’re audited by the state.

Kelly: The training can be a put-off for some people who want to volunteer, especially those who are working full-time jobs. It’s difficult to find the time to obtain EMT certification. And I just finished 86 hours of continuing education required for paramedics, in addition to 24 hours to maintain my EMT.

Q: It seems like a lot of work, but you find it rewarding?

A: Kelly: I think it stems from our upbringing. Any one of my family or Mike’s would give the shirt off their backs to help people in need. And it takes some compassion and drive to want to ensure the safety of your community. But if you want to help your community, volunteer.

Mike: But most of our community will never know what the members of our department deal with. We save a lot of lives, but federal regulations prevent us from talking about it. And it’s not always easy. After 20-plus years I’m still bothered by some vehicle accidents-especially fatalities. Everyone in the department understands if they can’t handle a situation there’s no shame in stepping back. And counseling is available. Kelly is a trained crisis counselor.

Q: Doesn’t it take a lot of community support to operate a volunteer fire department?

A: Mike: Warren Township is the largest township in Ohio, and we maintain two fire stations with 38 volunteer members, so it takes some support. And one of our major fundraisers is coming up this month.

Kelly: Our 55th social begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at Fire Station 1 along State Route 550. Everyone is welcome to come out and help celebrate.

Sam Shawver conducted this interview.