WHETSTONE — When Sam Foster enrolled in a Cochise College EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class 11 years ago, it was more out of curiosity than anything else.

At the time, he had no way of knowing the eight-credit course would represent his launch into a career path.

Today, after 11 years with Whetstone Fire District, Foster is the district’s new battalion chief and plays a role in a list of fire district community outreach projects.

“I took the EMT class with several firefighters from around Cochise County and, after hearing the way they spoke about the job, it was something I became interested in as a possible career path,” said Foster, who started volunteering with Whetstone Fire in 2008 and soon became a full-time employee. “I’ve been battalion chief since September 1st.”

Foster describes both the challenges and rewards of being a firefighter and touches on his new position. He reflects on the camaraderie and “family-like” relationships that develop through a firefighter’s 24-hour shifts and as an emergency responder.

“The most challenging part of being a firefighter was probably the lifestyle change,” Foster said. “You don’t work a 9-to-5. You come here and work a 24-hour shift. You make friends here as if they’re your family, you live here, you work here and you eat here. And sometimes you have to share that with your family at home, as well.”

Foster said as he stepped into his position as battalion chief, it was much like going through a lifestyle change all over again.

“When you come off the truck and go into the position where I’m at now, that begins to be the biggest challenge, because you’ve gotten so used to that lifestyle,” he said. “And now, you’re going back to working in an office job. You’re not seeing as much of your crew. You get to see them when you come here, but you’re not in the mud with them as much anymore.”

Foster says the most satisfying part of being an emergency responder is “seeing how you affect the lives of others in a positive way” by being there for them when they are going through an emergency.

“It’s being there when they are having the worst day of their lives and doing something to turn that around to make it better,” he said.

Community outreach is another part of the job Foster enjoys.

Foster says he derives a certain satisfaction from being out in the community, whether it’s classroom visits, the fire station’s annual haunted house, or distributing gifts to families in need during the holidays.

“The haunted house is one of my favorite things we do throughout the year,” he said.

Held the Saturday before Halloween, the Whetstone fire station is transformed into a haunted house that draws hundreds of young people and attracts large crowds every year.

“It’s a very popular event. We have our ‘trunk or treat,’ the haunted house, we have stuff for younger kids, for older kids,” Foster said. “I get tremendous satisfaction by knowing that we are doing things to give back to the community.”

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