Some of the people with the biggest impact on the world are those who are altruistic, acting upon selfless concerns for the general well-being of others. An altruistic person can be anyone from an individual serving an elderly neighbor by offering to do a collection of chores to a fellow classmate helping peers with a complicated subject. Or it can be those who engage in the Light the World initiative held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every Christmas to serve their community.
One truly altruistic person in Rexburg is Kevin Koehler, a local firefighter and EMT for the Madison Fire Department.
“I always knew I wanted to help people, to make a contribution to society to make others’ lives better,” Koehler said. “There is beauty behind it, and I absolutely love it.”
A typical day for Koehler starts with rising at 7 a.m. and arriving at the station to check if the vehicles are stocked and ready for incoming calls. Following checkups, he gets on the computer for weekly training that alternates between fire and emergency medical services to keep his training up to date. During this time, Koehler and his team also respond to calls. Approximately 60% to 70% of calls are EMT calls while the others are fire related.
“It feels good when you get off a shift, and you know that you were able to help someone on their worst day,” Koehler said. “When you get a call — an ambulance call — it’s generally that person’s worst day, so knowing you are able to help is amazing.”
Hardships and tribulations
Despite the many miracles performed, a profession in EMS and fire is not easy. This profession requires a lot of physical and mental strength, so individuals must be aware of what they are committing to. Flukes in the system are fatal, and errors can lead to individuals dying. Koehler advises to always know the information and keep learning it throughout one’s whole career. The world is always changing, and it’s important to keep up.
Besides continual studying, firefighting also requires physical preparation, as every call is different. Firefighting is not an easy job, nor is it a relaxed one. There will be calls that destroy the firefighter physically.
“When someone’s house is on fire, it is absolutely gut-wrenching and heartbreaking,” Koehler said. “We generally carry over 100 lbs. when fighting fires, which include your gear, your hose, your oxygen tank. You need to be physically ready for it, or chances of surviving this program are unlikely.”
Not only does one need physical strength, mental fortitude is also necessary. There will be many calls that destroy one’s mental state. Calls vary, and individuals need to be ready for anything.
Fernanda Castaneda, a sophomore studying environmental geoscience, is friends with Koehler and has seen his dedication and strength firsthand.
“I think Kevin is a great example of someone who contains physical and mental strength,” Castaneda said. “Watching him grow over time and become the person he is today is astounding, and I highly admire his determination to serve and protect his community.”
The calm among the storm
Through the many hardships, there are heartfelt moments firefighters experience on shift. Koehler reminiscences over one of his favorite EMS calls.
“I have a few favorite calls, but this one in particular struck me,” Koehler said. “We went on the call, and the lady was injured. It was pretty obvious she was going through some domestic abuse and violence-related issues within the home. She did not want to tell us in the house, and she was trying to keep distant from her partner. We noticed this and also the bruises covering her. We treated her on the scene and put her in the ambulance where she broke down. Being able to help calm her down and let her know things will get better is a great feeling. People like this need the most help.”
Interests in joining the fire department
Koehler’s profession is rewarding but also extremely hard. Anyone can become a part of the fire department, but physical and mental preparation are needed.