–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Aug 20, 2019
Mike Szafarowicz, an EMT/paramedic for the Sylvania Fire Department, has known he wanted to be a firefighter since his youth. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do since I was in the third grade,” he said. “It’s funny. The only connection we could find to anyone else in the family being in the firefighting field was that I had a distant relative who was a Chicago firefighter. I think it was a childhood thing. I saw the big red truck flying down the street, and it progressed from there.” Szafarowicz began his training immediately out of high school, received his EMT certificate and paramedic certification and was hired in February 1998. He has always worked in Sylvania.
Szafarowicz enjoys his career choice immensely and believes one of the best aspects of his job is never knowing what is going to happen during each shift. “It could be a quiet day, or we could be out on 13 runs,” he said. “It is always up in the air.” He believes the biggest challenges are keeping up with the training and the standards that are compulsory in the field.
“We are required to constantly advance our training and education,” he stated. “That includes everything from ice rescue to hazardous material and mass shooting training. There is always something new that we must be proficient at. The technology has changed as well. We now have laptop computers giving us information as we respond to a call. We get updates as we head to the run, such as how old the person is and any known health history, which prepares us for what we are walking into. It is night and day to what we had available to us before. It is an incredible thing to have that information as you head to a patient/victim.”
The Sylvania EMT believes that the community does not fully understand the scope of firefighting. “When I was hired, this department averaged 2,000 runs annually. Now we are on track for 7,000 runs this year,” he stated. “There are many ways the community could help us, especially with the increased number of runs. One way is to clearly mark their addresses on their houses and mailboxes. It helps us get to the scene faster when seconds count.”
Szafarowicz is married and has lived in Sylvania for the past 20 years. He also feels his station is like a family. “We are a close-knit group. We are a large department but small enough to know everyone, everyone’s families and we are a family within itself,” he stated.
The first responder is grateful when people they have assisted return to the station to update them on their progress and say thank you for their service. “We have followed up on a few memorable cases,” he said. “It is nice when people come to the station to let us know how they are doing. For every person that comes in to update us, there are 200 people that do not. It is so rewarding when we see people we have helped. It feels amazing knowing you have made a difference.”
Szafarowicz hopes to continue his work for years to come and likes to wake up not knowing what each day will bring. “I enjoy it all,” he said. “We do everything. Heading to work at 7 am could find us going to schools to give public safety talks to the kids. We could be inspecting businesses for potential fire hazards or we could spend the shift responding to emergency calls. We also do special community events such as the Fire Festival coming up in October. Like I said, that’s what I love about my job. Every day is full of new experiences and a chance to make a difference in other people’s lives.”