From an early age, Erik Kelley knew he wanted to do something in the field of public service. He originally pursued a career in law enforcement, but a move to Lowell meant a new job which also opened the door to working with the Lowell Area Fire Department.
As a member of the force since 2013, Kelley is currently a lieutenant and has never regretted becoming a firefighter. “This was the best decision I have ever made,” he says.
Making the Switch to Firefighting
Kelley has been working in public service since the time he was in college. While earning his associate degree in criminal justice, he joined the Ionia County Sheriff’s Posse and was a member there for 17 years. He also has 10 years of experience working part-time as an animal control officer.
When he moved to Lowell to take a position at Amway, one of his new co-workers suggested he try out of the Lowell Area Fire Department. Kelley says he missed the public service component of his previous jobs and decided to apply to the department in 2013. He was brought on for a paid on-call position and says his experience on the force has been second to none.
“Yes, it is demanding and a lot of hard work, but it is the most rewarding job I have ever had,” he says. What’s more, entering the fire department meant instant camaraderie with other area residents. “The day you join the department, you instantly get new brothers and sisters,” according to Kelley.
Happy to be Helping Families
During his eight years with the LAFD, Kelley says his most memorable calls are those in which he has been able to assist in matters of life or death.
He recalls one instance in which he arrived on the scene to find a person not breathing. With the help of CPR and an AED, rescue crews were able to revive the person. “That patient lived, [made] a full recovery and [was] back home in just a few days,” Kelley says.
Some people don’t realize the range of services offered by modern fire departments, Kelley adds. “Firefighting is much more than just putting out fires nowadays,” he says. “Most of our calls are medical calls, but it’s even more than that. Firefighters do so much more, from installing smoke detectors to working with the kids in schools.”
There are times when Kelley has to skip meals with his fiancée or three kids because a call for assistance comes during the dinner hour, or he sometimes responds to a 3am emergency only to also have to be to his full-time job at 6am. That time commitment can be challenging, but in the end, it’s worth the sacrifice to be able to help save a life.