“It’s always been important to me to have the opportunity to help other people. That’s a big reason for doing what we do, and I think it’s the most important. ”
–Lewis Lovell, Station 1 firefighter
by Mimi Montgomery
photograph by Christer Berg
Raleigh’s Station 1 firehouse on Dawson Street sees a lot of action. It’s home to three companies, 12 firefighters, one fire investigator, and the Engine 1, Engine 13, and Ladder 4 trucks. All have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. “There’s no set-in-stone,” says firefighter Lewis Lovell, 33. “In this kind of job, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. You come in the morning, and you have certain things you have to do, but it could all change in a second.”
Each truck has four firefighters assigned to it. Lovell rides on Ladder 4 and is a backup driver for other trucks in the area. The Ladder trucks are responsible for searching for victims and providing ventilation at fire scenes; the Engine trucks carry water and pull hose lines to fight fires. They all provide EMT services, too. Most of Station 1’s action is focused in the downtown and Glenwood South areas, but when multiple trucks are needed at a scene, they can head as far out as Cary. The companies work 24-hour shifts, sleeping at the station when they can. “We get woken up a lot,” says Lovell. “You don’t sleep great at a fire station. You’re kind of on edge. You go from dead asleep to fighting a house fire in five minutes.”
Originally from Newport, Wales, Lovell moved to the area to marry his wife, who is from Raleigh. He worked in the corporate world for a while, but knew he wanted to do something purposeful and outside of the 9-to-5 routine. He learned the EMT and firefighting skills needed to become a certified North Carolina firefighter at the Raleigh Fire Department Recruit Academy, and has now been with the station for more than four years. Lovell has worked alongside some of the other firefighters for almost as long. “I always feel like I’m with 12 brothers,” he says of the crew. “You’ve got the older guys that just pick on you all the time, and then you have the younger guys who you’re trying to teach stuff to.” It’s not all joking around. “You’ve got to put a lot of trust in each other, as well. Trust that everyone’s going to do their job properly, that everyone knows their job well. You are together a lot.”
Station 1: 220 S. Dawson St.