There really didn’t seem to be any question as to whether Cory Velzen would someday be a firefighter. It seemed to be something people in his family just did.
“The fire service lives in the family,” Velzen explains. His grandpa, dad, aunt, brother and brother-in-law are a few of those who have served or are currently serving as firefighters in other departments.
Velzen answered the call himself when he became a member of the Lowell Area Fire Department some 13 years ago. Since then, he has moved up in the ranks and is now the department’s deputy chief as well as its training officer.
Making a Difference in the Community
Like other firefighters, Velzen points to public service as a driving force behind his work with the department.
“You have a chance to make a difference,” he says, “and be part of something bigger than yourself.”
Of course, not all calls for assistance have happy endings, and there are some that Velzen would rather forget. “Any calls with kids are tough to deal with,” he explains.
However, he also gets a chance to give back to elderly residents, whom Velzen describes as “the heroes of your community.” He says it is a highlight of his job to be able to assist those who have done so much for Lowell and now need a helping hand themselves.
Work-Life Balance Always a Challenge
While being part of the Lowell Area Fire Department is rewarding, it’s also challenging.
“People aren’t aware that 99% of us are paid on-call,” Velzen says. Most firefighters hold down a full-time job in addition to their work at the station. For Velzen, that means working as a maintenance manager for a local manufacturer.
Firefighter families often have to contend with interrupted dinners or a parent missing a special event. “I think I had the advantage over others,” Velzen says. Growing up as the son of a firefighter, he already knew how unpredictable this life can be.
Still, it is a struggle sometimes to be present for family when juggling two jobs. “What’s the one place that’s going to give?” Velzen asks. For many in the profession, it’s family obligations that take a backseat when there’s a fire to put out or an accident to respond to.
When not working or responding to calls, Velzen tries to carve out time for his close friends and family, including his wife and two daughters. He also enjoys beekeeping in his free time. However, when a call comes through for assistance from the Lowell Area Fire Department, Velzen doesn’t hesitate to respond.
After all, it’s in his blood.