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"This week we talk about fighting fires twice a week. A firefighter dies in the line of duty. Heroes sense of the word firefighters spend their lives, doing gritty dangerous work, wearing down their lungs and their bodies, so that the rest of us can have safer lives the biggest fire in recent San Francisco history began with just a few wisps of smoke from the top story of the building right here within a half hour, the entire structure was engulfed. Here's how it happened beginning with the first call to fire dispatch. Construction. East of Los Angeles more than fifteen hundred firefighters are facing walls of fire, eighty feet, tall, hot, dry gusts, or whipping up fire tornadoes across brush, Brittle from drought. Firefighters a frontline responders in the battle against climate change whether it's fighting raging wildfires or helping urban dwellers overcome extreme heat or rescuing victims of rising seas, firefighters, a who we call on. What is less well known that? are being exposed to toxic soup of chemicals from melting screen TV's and nylon carpets each time they respond to a residential fire. I talk with Tom O'Connor. Battalion Chief in San. Francisco's five. The poppin as well as one of the directors of the San Francisco Cancer Prevention Foundation about how firefighters a leading the charge to clean up. One Community at the time. I stopped by asking Battalion Chief O. Connor how long he's been with the San Francisco Fire Department. Had Been a firefighter in San Francisco for roughly twenty seven years until one attracted you in the first place to becoming a firefighter. ability to help others and engage in some sort of civic duty that I wanted to serve the community and as well as a kind of drifting between jobs. At that point in my life I thought I was going to be a college professor and I was in Grad. School Davis and this job came up in San Francisco, and I thought well. Maybe I'll do this and make our way through Grad. School before I get my Phd and twenty seven years later and all but dissertation, but one day I'll go back and finish up. What what was on Tom. Science that's pretty amazing that you made that switch of that time that you thought about being firefighter before and the first and the family come from a family of new. York cops and ironically enough My mother's an identical twin, and both sisters gave birth at roughly the same time, and my cousin is in New York firemen and I'm San Francisco firefighter. So yeah, we both kind of follows similar career paths in life. We're in an interesting time as it relates to public service and firefight is still revered, and you'll everyone's local hero, whereas the police are going through a rough time in terms of public perception, and and frankly the behavior firefighters are very fortunate in that. Every time were called. Were there to help? We don't give out tickets. We don't arrest people like there's no. Negative outcome of a visit from a firefighter. We know that the public call us at their absolute worst moment, so we make sure that they have absolute trust in us if they call and they want us, there were at their lowest of low. We WanNA. Make sure that's a very non-intrusive private visit and we WANNA. Maintain that trust so if they opened their doors stranger to. To come in and help we WANNA make sure that they always feel welcome to open that door, so we're always in the community talking to people and we make sure we follow up on the clients that we do visit for Medical Paul or fire call I mean we really nurture the relationship with the community, so it's sort of an oral tradition that's been handed down. With virtually every fire department in the nation, that's you maintain that that level of trust in that relationship with the public and one of the things that's unique about firefighters is you'll live together I mean it's more like a family. You're going back to your family of firefighters. How does that shift even work at one twenty four hour shift, and usually you're off for forty eight hours, and it comes to forty eight or fifty six hour workweek. But yeah, it is kind of a unique social experiment where you put all these people together for twenty four hours. We have meals together and us. You know live and fight and work together, and it's like any family. You'll have fights. You have disagreements and you make up and you come together, and there's high points and low points, but. You make it all work. Some people say we put the fun and dysfunction, but Like it, it's a it's a great experiment and is really an enjoyable profession especially when you put that family aspect together, and where's your battalion Tom I'm battalion one which goes from downtown, San Francisco Chinatown North. Beach all you over to the wharf, so it's a big busy battalion. How many? Do, you have We have roughly seventy firefighters this battalion every day, so it's five stations and I get about six thousand runs a year so I don't know how many would get with all the engines and trucks put together probably in excess of ninety thousand calls a year amazing. It's huge. Yeah, we keep busy. It's really slowed down now with the pandemic because downtown is emptied. So, there's nobody to call nine one one anymore. They're all sheltering in place somewhere