We sat down with Surf City Fire Department’s Wayne Jeno, fitness advocate and diehard surfer. Here’s what he had to say….

Q: Tell us about your home turf!

A: Surf City Fire Department is a station on the North Carolina coast with 24 full time firefighters, 2 Chiefs, and a mixed crew of career paid and volunteer first responders. And… for this guy, plenty of surf!

Q: What do you like most about being a firefighter?

A: The brotherhood and bonds that you build with each other. No matter what department you’re in, those are the same. Your work is to go into dangerous situations with people. You need the ultimate mental preparation. And to know that you have people who are going to watch over you and vice versa. 

Q: How do you prepare for the lifestyle of being a firefighter, having to respond unexpectedly and immediately to calls and then rapidly execute? Do you feel “ready”? Have you ever felt “not ready?” 

A: I’m 66, so staying physically fit and active is the single most important aspect of being a firefighter for me. Being fit, ready, is how you have confidence that you are safe. Not only do you have to be trained to do the tasks required but you have to be physically fit to achieve those tasks. You mind is racing. You need to be confident, never question, that you can physically do what you need to do, and then you have more time to mentally think about what’s needed. During the most critical moments, you reach back and recall your training. You have to rely on this and let it takeover, know you are ready. Take a few deep breaths. Don’t get ahead of yourself. 

Q: What is your biggest challenge or hardest part of being a firefighter? 

A: Preparation. You have to constantly keep ratcheting it up. 110 floors in 18-20 minutes in the gym. Not losing the edge and stepping back. When you have new skills to learn such as ocean rescue training, you have to be prepared for the demand. Swim laps, and at the gym, focus on strength training geared towards swimming. 

Q: Who is most important to you in supporting your work and commitment to being a firefighter?

A: My wife supported me from day one. This is a huge time commitment, and it adds an unexpectedness to your day in and day out. Dinner’s ready for us to enjoy, and boom I’m out the door….

Thanks Wayne for sharing a moment with us!