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Blaney Fire Chief Beck gives insight into the life of a firefighter

Posted: June 17, 2015 10:28 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Tenell Felder/C-I

Chief Greg Beck is the new Fire Chief of the Blaney Fire Department.

Blaney Fire Chief Greg Beck has been in the firefighting service more than two decades. He recently became Fire Chief of the Blaney Volunteer Fire Department, which he has been with for 23 years.  

Beck credits the beginning of his career in firefighting to two coworkers he was working with at the time, Charlie Catoe and Dewitt Peake.

 “Dewitt asked me if I would think about volunteering. I said I would think about it. My dad did it when I was growing up, so it was interesting but it just wasn’t something I wanted to pursue,” Beck said.

Beck decided to try it out and ended up volunteering at the Pine Grove Fire Department. He said he was eager to take classes to get trained so he could run calls, meaning he could respond to emergencies.  

“The first class that was available…was here in Elgin at the old fire station. David Bagwell was teaching it,” Beck recalled. Beck also noticed the fire station in Elgin was busier than where he was currently at. “It was the busiest place in the world. Pine Grove was quiet but the action was here and I liked it,” Beck said.

Beck was asked if he would consider also volunteering at the Fire Department in Elgin. He said he would like to, but only if he could be a member of both departments. 

“I had to weigh my options and asked if could I be a member of both, I could. Back in those days, we could run with two departments,” Beck said.

Beck has served in various offices and roles within the fire department and previously served as the Battalion Chief. He explained the different offices within the station. 

“You have Firefighters, Safety Officers, Lieutenants which have a little bit more responsibility, Captains which are just another step up, and the Assistant Chief which is George Marthers,” Beck said.

Beck stresses all of his officers should act in the role of Safety Officer.

“My guys understand that safety is all of their responsibilities. As far as I’m concerned, everyone is a Safety Officer. If I’m watching your back and you’re watching mine, then we are all covered,” Beck said.

In his current role as Fire Chief, Beck says the level of his responsibility has increased.

“There is a lot of computer work, and there’s making sure that my guys are doing what they are supposed to do. We have monthly meetings where I have to discuss things … None of my guys in this department have been asked to do something that I haven’t done,” Beck said, recalling the various duties he has had in his years at the fire department.

Beck said his men have put in a lot of dedication, time and energy into being trained and then serving as firemen. 

He also mentioned how fellow fireman Clarence Johnson surpassed him in the number of calls he responds to.

 “He’s been a blessing to this place. He’s one of the nicest, most humble people you could meet. He’s my top runner and he runs the most calls of the fire station,” Beck said.

He also shared how many of the firefighters put in extra time after their main jobs to take classes for training.

Classes, training and a fire simulation are all apart of training to be a fireman.

“You have to take classes. People with no training have six months to learn the truck, operating procedures, learning where the equipment is. They also learn how to attack a fire. It’s a lot of book work and then hands on,” Beck explained.

Training also includes being able to put on firefighting gear in one minute. 

“You want it to be done quickly but right. You don’t want to leave any holes open (because) our biggest demon is steam. When we put that fire out, it’s going to turn to steam and if there is any exposed skin it’s going to tell us if we have a hole in our gear that we don’t know about,” Beck said. 

Beck shared how through his years as a firefighter, he has learned to be cautious and wise when putting out blazes. 

“Fires are scary, but you have to respect them. If you don’t respect the fire then you are asking for trouble. You have to look and ask, what is this fire doing?  What is the smoke doing?” Beck said. 

Beck has suffered his share of injuries during his career. One incident resulted with five broken ribs, a puncture wound in his arm and a chipped elbow.

“The truck skidded out of control and my partner was ejected, but the good thing was he was ejected onto the road as my truck went down the embankment so it didn’t roll over him. When I came to, the siren was still going and the truck was still running. It was upside down and I was actually lying on the roof of the cab,” Beck said. “The first thing I remember when I woke up was asking where my partner was. He answered me which was a relief. Hurting yourself is a whole different animal than hurting someone else.”

Despite the danger, Beck says he enjoys what he does.

“This is my other family. As a matter of fact it’s been my other family through a lot,” Beck said. “The biggest thing that we stress is training. If we’re not training then we are not doing our jobs because we aren’t ready to help the community. That’s the most important thing.” 



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