The Darien Times featuring a series of profiles on Darien firefighters leading up to Lobster for Ladders in September. This is the second in the series.
Cameron Law is a volunteer at Noroton Heights Fire Department
I started volunteering in high school, shortly after 9/11. I was a junior at the Kent School, and I wanted to give back to my community. I have been volunteering on and off ever since. As a firefighter, you pick up a pretty unique skill set that doesn’t lapse and can be transferred from department to department, and you want to put it to use. I volunteered throughout college while at Clemson University and met some of my closest friends through the department. My feeling has always been, bad things are going to happen, and if I have the skills, I want to be there to help and not leave it up to someone else.
One of the greatest assets a volunteer can bring to the job is a few hours of time each month. This time can be dedicated to responding to calls, attending training, maintaining equipment, handling department administration, or fund raising.
I train five to ten hours per month. The department has training on Wednesday nights and Sundays. I go when I am not traveling for work and do not have family commitments.
I respond to as many calls as I can, but since I work a full time job, I am limited to nights and weekends. It is really hard to see calls come in while I am stuck at work and not be able to drop what I am doing and respond.
Volunteering has taught me that serving the community can be fun and rewarding. It has also given me a unique perspective about what it means to work under pressure.
The most difficult thing to learn is that you’re not moving as slowly it might feel like you are. In the chaos of an emergency, no one watching us work is thinking that we should be moving faster. Slowing down and moving slowly is more efficient and gets better results.
What I most enjoy about volunteering is that each call presents a unique problem that needs to be solved with your team. Our team at Noroton Heights is a mix of really interesting people who like to take some risks and are also handy problem solvers who don’t mind getting a little dirty.
The thing that has surprised me most about volunteering in Darien is that people have no idea that we aren’t a paid professional fire department. You tell them that we are 100% volunteer and a look of confusion often comes over their faces. I guess this means we are doing a good job meeting the public’s expectations.
My family is glad I volunteer because the firehouse provides constant entertainment for my three-year-old daughter Abbie. They also see how much I enjoy going on calls. After my son Charlie (now three months old) was born, I responded when I could and took care of my responsibilities around the firehouse during nap times. The other guys were very supportive and covered for me when I couldn’t make it.
The advice I would give to anyone considering volunteering is it takes all types of people to make the department run. You don’t have to be the one running into a burning building. When you’re eighteen the thought is, “I can do anything.” As you get older you start to think about your job, your career, your family. So there are definitely people who say, “I’m not going in,” but who feel they can contribute in other ways. We are always in need of drivers and people on the operational end at the firehouse. There are roles for everyone who wants to contribute.
Firefighting is exactly as I imagined as a kid. You get to drive a big red truck with lights and a siren!
Cam has lived in Darien for two and a half years and been a volunteer with the Noroton Heights Fire Department all that time. He started volunteering with Newtown Hook and Ladder in Newtown.
When Cam is not volunteering he works at Trafigura Trading, a commodities trading company in Stamford.