Being the Calm in the Storm

by | Oct 2022

THICK BLACK SMOKE pours out of an old home that sits back off of a long winding road. Though the scene looks relatively calm to the naked eye, appearances can be deceiving. Inside, red, orange, and white flames dance around as they ravenously grow in size and strength, devouring everything in sight. The unmistakable sound of shattering glass pierces through the already roaring and rageful fire. The previously contained flames are now waving out of the broken glass pane windows like a taunting tyrant. The fire, previously hues of orange, has turned an iridescent blue. The beastly house fire is just warming up. Its assassination attempt is not yet complete.

Back at the fire station, the crew proceeds with their daily chores. Some are cleaning the station and washing the trucks. Others are going through an operational checklist to ensure every feature is working correctly on the trucks. Suddenly, a dispatcher’s page comes through the intercom. Everyone stops what they are doing and begins to get suited up. When the truck rolls out of the garage doors, it’s evident that it’s officially time to rally. A breathtaking adrenaline rush sets in as the truck’s sirens blare into the first traffic intersection.

Back at the engulfed house, the faint sound of sirens approaches in the distance. The reassuring sight of flashing lights follows the noise. It’s a Tullahoma fire engine. As local firefighters arrive on the scene, they immediately begin sizing up the area before making a quick and calculated response plan. Decisions are made, and the team sets out to work—every firefighter with his own set of roles and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, not every obstacle can be planned for or anticipated. Sometimes life, or in this case, an emergency situation, can present itself with unforeseen complications. For a local firefighter, Gage Morrison, his first-ever call to a structure fire came loaded with surprises. The most obscure surprise was a case of reloaded ammunition hidden away in the house. Morrison shared, “Naturally, being my first structure fire was pretty crazy. But to make it even crazier, the owner of the home had reloaded ammo, so there were rounds of ammunition firing off all around us due to the intensity of the heat.”

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Morrison and his fellow squad members were unaware of the abnormally dangerous situation they were in until the horrifying sound of gunfire began to ring out into the home. The ammunition was engulfed in flames, and the crew found themselves smack dab in the center of life-threatening gunfire. The oddest detail of the situation was that there was no gun and no shooter. Though terrifying to think about, being near life-threatening situations is an accurate reality for first responders. Luckily, first responders are adequately trained to advance forward and appropriately deal with dangerous situations. While the rest of the world may be frozen in fear, firefighters move with confidence and discernment, no matter what is thrown, or in this case, launched, at them.

Firefighters like Morrison are often called to emergencies unrelated to fire safety. In fact, they are ready and trained to respond to all kinds of critical circumstances. One particular situation that is seared into Morrison’s mind was arriving at the scene of a car accident. He shared, “When we pulled up to it [the scene of the accident], we thought for sure there were no survivors. The car was basically destroyed and in pieces. To our surprise, however, a mother and son were standing off on the side of the road, without a scratch on them.” It is moments like these that make the role of a first responder so emotionally taxing but also rewarding.

Morrison has been with the Tullahoma Fire Department since December 2018. He shared what led him into the profession. He said, “The fire department came to my elementary school when I was young. They let us walk through and look at the trucks, and then they would give a quick rundown of how everything worked. It was a cool experience to be able to see and hear how they operate throughout the day. And honestly, though I was young, it was eye-opening for me. As I got older, I started to look into it more and more, and I realized it was something I really wanted to do. Then when I got an opportunity to join as a reserve, I ran with it. I love every day.”

Most everyone takes comfort in knowing that when they need help, someone will answer the call. But who is that someone? In Tullahoma, it’s quite possible that the answer to your call will be Morrison or one of the 33 career or 13 reserve firefighters from the Tullahoma Fire Department. On what could be the worst possible day of your life, first responders remain at their best. Let’s join together as a community and say a collective “thank you” for their service. GN

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