Firefighter profile: Jack Butcher

The Darien Times featuring a series of profiles on Darien firefighters. This is the first in the series.

Jack Butcher is a volunteer at Noroton Fire Department.

I became a volunteer because at an early age I witnessed several emergency situations and watched first responders in their work. I was drawn to public service.

I respond whenever there is a call and I’m in town. It may be multiple calls in a day or night; it may be none. It’s tough to predict, but it tends to be manageable over time.

What I most enjoy about firefighting is being part of a team that rallies around having a positive impact on people who need help, often when they are experiencing the worst of circumstances.

Firefighting is both challenging and enjoyable because it demands both cerebral and physical agility. The unpredictability of how and when you will be pressed into service can be challenging. We need the team and equipment to be in a constant state of readiness and mentally prepared and focused so we can react to whatever set of circumstances we face.

The most dangerous calls we respond to tend to be unpredictable on their face. A simple alarm activation can become a working structure fire; a motor vehicle accident can involve a propane truck or a complicated extrication; a marine rescue call can put a crew at sea in dangerous weather conditions. Both land and water incidents can present a myriad of circumstances we train for. Whether fighting a structure fire, extricating a trapped motorist or responding to vessels in distress, search and rescue calls, or missing vessels, crew safety is always a priority.

Since the fire-rescue service in Darien is 100% volunteer, we are not only the first responders, we also manage the department operationally. We run training and equipment and we serve as administrators, handling everything from websites to public affairs and fund raising to office supplies. There is a lot to do, so there is a lot to learn and always a “help wanted” sign out. 

One of the more interesting things about our fire-rescue service in Darien is the profile of our membership. Our members include lawyers and landscapers; painters and private equity executives; insurance executives, small business owners, and students; investment bankers, federal and local government workers; as well as members whose full time jobs are in the fire-rescue service in other cities. When we roll out of the firehouse, we make no distinctions in terms of what you do, who you are, or your station in life outside of the firehouse. It’s about the job the team needs to do.

My family is very supportive of my work. In fact, I have two sons who chose to follow me into the fire-rescue service. Needless to say, my wife is understanding, supportive, and thankfully, has a sense of humor about it. Many family dinners and events have been disrupted or delayed because the pager tones drop, or because we had to go put tire chains on the trucks before a snowstorm. In the end, though, we see it as our way of giving back to the community.

My advice to anyone considering volunteering is that it really is manageable within a full time work life and family life. It simply takes balance, dedication to service and learning, passion, and commitment to teamwork and the mission. It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and it’s a fun group of people. 

Jack Butcher has lived in Darien for nine years and been a volunteer with the Noroton Fire Department for eight years. He started volunteering at age sixteen in Wilton, which now has a 100% paid force, and has served in the Ithaca, N.Y., Fire Department, and the Montgomery County Maryland Fire-Rescue Service.

When Jack is not volunteering he works at Hagerty Insurance as head of North American Distribution.