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‘The Lucky Ones’ — A look into the busiest fire station in Phoenix

PHOENIX — I walk in, shake their hands, and learn their names. The tones go off and Phoenix Fire Department Station 7’s engine is dispatched on a call. Out the door we go on my very first call during my ride-along with a crew from the busiest fire station in the city of Phoenix.

“The average is 15 calls a shift… If that’s just the average, our numbers can go well over 20 calls a shift,” Phoenix Fire Capt. Chris Pardi told me as we got into the specifics of what him and his firefighters face.

Located near Seventh Street and Hatcher Road, the crew is tight knit and fully accepting of the sacrifices that come along with being a firefighter at the busiest station in Phoenix.

During a short lull between the back-to-back calls, I had a chance to sit down and talk with paramedic and firefighter, Kevin Compas. He has called station seven home for the last seven years. As a husband and father, he says he can see the sleep deprivation starting to play a role in his life.

“My wife and I have conversations all the time when we go out on dates together about when I am leaving station seven. She can see a little change in me with the stress and attitude wise,” Compas told me.

With a handful of calls already under our belt for the day, the crew told me they were on pace for a busy day.

In the middle of my conversation with Compas, talking about his family going through the adoption process — just as we get into the conversation the tones go off again, this time for a structure fire.

“They call us coiled springs. We can be sitting down and super relaxed we hear those tones, it’s out the door and get to work,” firefighter and paramedic student Steve Hayes described what it is like getting the non-stop calls.

Tracked at roughly 5,400 calls a year, the crew at station seven says more than a quarter of those are dedicated to the homeless in the area.

Running calls throughout the afternoon, the members said it would only get busier at night. Jokingly inviting me to try and stay overnight during the shift to see what happens after dark.

As the calls continued between helping an older woman who had fallen, responding to a fire at a nearby church, and helping a homeless man who they regularly treat – the crew had enough time to sit down and eat their lunch they left behind too many times prior during the day as they were dispatched on calls.

Gathered around their kitchen table, Pardi said they have two community meals a shift focused on fellowship.

“We are each other’s family. Being at the firehouse for 24 hours is a long time. We’re missing out on birthday parties, taking care of our kids, or being with our wives. We have to stick together and be there for one another,” Pardi said. He is nearing retirement and has served as a firefighter for nearly four decades.

Knowing all too well the trials that come alongside the job, Pardi made it clear during my six-hour ride-along his role with crew.

He is a teacher, a fatherly figure, and a big teddy bear. He bears his crew members’ burdens. He loves his crew and would do anything for them.

“My job as a captain is coming in here and make sure I have a lot of energy, I have to have the excitement to be here, while also having that situational awareness of where my crew members are at.”

Pardi said his job as a captain would not be possible without the unrelenting support he receives from the city, the union and all their member services.

“We are the lucky ones, having the privilege to be able to come to fire stations in the city of Phoenix everyday being backed by our officials giving us the resources to best serve our community.”

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