Tom Lucchesi was named the Beacon fire chief in April and began the job full-time in October.

Tom LucchesiWhy did you decide to become a firefighter?
I had a few friends who were volunteer firefighters, so I start hanging around the firehouse when I was 12 and got hooked at a young age. I started as a career firefighter in the City of Newburgh in 2007, was promoted through the ranks and retired as an assistant chief there. When there were layoffs, a couple of guys came to the Beacon department, and they’re the ones who reached out to let me know that Chief [Gary] Van Voorhis was retiring. Beacon is a great city. It’s a tight-knit community and we have a great group of firefighters to work with.

What can you tell us about the central fire station being built on South Avenue?
We started with three fire houses and we’re consolidating into one. As we’re transitioning from what was a fully volunteer force to primarily a career force, we’re bringing the four career firefighters [who are on a shift together] into one facility for the first time. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility that will hopefully last well over 50 years. It will allow us to respond more effectively because we’ll arrive on the scene as a group, as opposed to one apparatus arriving and then another and then another. We’re going to be able to arrive with four firefighters ready to provide service immediately.

What is a typical day like for a Beacon firefighter?
Firefighters are assigned a 24-hour shift. They work one day on and three days off, with the shift changing at 7 a.m., but it’s common for firefighters to arrive early to relieve the previous shift. When they get into the firehouse in the morning, the first thing they are doing is checking equipment. They talk with the other crew to find out what their shift was like — what tools were used, any problems they encountered. They’re checking their personal protective equipment, their self-contained breathing apparatus, checking all the tools on the apparatus that day, because you never know when you’re going to go out the door. Usually by 7 a.m. they’ve already checked everything and are ready to go for the day.

Then there’s housework. Just like you have to do chores at home, they’re sweeping floors and cleaning the bathrooms, because this is where they live for the next 24 hours. We eat meals together for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We do training a couple of times a day, whether it’s in-house or going out to get to a different neighborhood, throwing ladders or pulling fire hose. It’s also good to be out in the community interacting with people. Between responding to calls and training, that will take us right through the evening, when they do house chores again.

Is every shift the same?
It’s dynamic. You could have a “slow” day with two or three medical calls. Or you could be 15 calls deep and see every variety, from a house fire to delivering a baby or, unfortunately, someone losing their life.

What do firefighters do to relieve stress?
What helps are the four or five other firefighters that you’re working with on a shift. In my career, the only people closer to me have been my family members. If you have a bad call, you can talk about it. Firefighters stereotypically don’t like to talk outside of their circle, so relying on your co-workers is a big stress relief. Going back to my time in Newburgh, from the time I walked in the door to the time of my shift change the next morning, I would have a smile on my face. My stomach would hurt from laughing. Race, color, religion, gender orientation — that does not exist to a firefighter. You’re brothers and sisters at the firehouse because your life can depend on each other. You see stuff that normal people don’t see, and you see it day in and day out.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

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