Saving others before self: Fire recruits get somber reminder of duty

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Recruit Dan Ledger calls out his orders over the radio as he responds to a house fire drill on Friday, December 7, 2012. For the recruits last day of the training they put all that they have learned to the test in real world scenarios set up in an abandon home donated by the city of Joliet. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Standing at attention on both sides of a doorway the recruits to the Aurora Fire Department salute as a stretcher is carried out of a building on their training grounds with a pair of boots showing from underneath an American Flag.

Usually ranking in the top 10 of the most dangerous jobs in the world, being a fireman takes a special person.

Imagine walking into work, everyday, knowing it could be your last.

Listening to the sirens blare as you fly through town, the man sitting next to you now may only be a memory in a few short minutes.

As a fireman you take an oath that says you will put someone else’s life ahead of your own.

“If it is between your grandma and me, you better believe I am saving your grandma,” said Lt. Jason Demas to a group of recruits standing over a firefighter draped in an American flag.

The somber sight of a fallen comrade was part of a drill to put the realities of the job in the face of the nine men on the verge of becoming the newest members of the Aurora Fire Department.

Take a look at the brim of any fire helmet and you will be almost guaranteed to find a photo of the family they said goodbye to earlier that day. “I want that to be the last thing I see when I put my helmet on,” Demas said.

Soon they will be facing a room full of cameras recording every minute as loved ones pin badges on their chest.

And soon after that they will be riding the engine as fast as their adrenaline is pumping to a fire devouring a family’s home.