The Herald Bulletin

March 29, 2010

Profile: Firefighters face cuts while offering heroics


ANDERSON, Ind. - Despite budget cuts in the city, some departments still have to go the extra mile.

It was an overcast day on Nov. 3, 2009, when at 10:05 a.m. the fire department arrived at a burning house located at 240 S. Scatterfield Road.

“When we pulled up heavy black smoke was coming from the front door,” says firefighter Kent Helpling. Because Kent Helpling and his partner John Foster entered through the back door and where it was impossible to see anything. Using a hand held thermal camera that produces, as Foster describes, an image parallel to that of a negative of a picture, they would be able to detect the body heat of a person.

Moving into the bedroom, still unable to see anything from the thick black smoke, they felt their way around till they found Larry Neff, unconscious, on the floor next to the bed. Rescuing Neff, Helpling and Foster carried him out to where the EMS crew was waiting.

Helpling and Foster are considered heroes for saving Neff’s life. However, Helpling says, “It’s a group effort. I hate to say it’s just me. I don’t see myself as a hero. I’m just part of the fire department doing my job.”

Helpling, who has been a firefighter for 20 years, joined the department because he likes to help people and because of the excitement that comes with the job.

Foster, who has been with the fire department for 33 years, says he became a fireman because it was a family thing.

“I was a third generation. I grew up with it and now my son is one. Its something I wanted to do for a long time.”

Both men enjoy working for the department, finding it exciting and filling them with an adrenaline rush. They both nobly stated they love helping people.

When entering burning houses, Helpling says he still becomes apprehensive.

“I don’t know if you ever overcome that. It’s a job. I weigh the measures of getting someone out of the fire.” He can still look at it lightheartedly.

“Everyone’s running out and you’re running in,” he says with a laugh.

While there have budget cuts being made throughout Anderson; both men didn’t think this seemed to be affecting the fire department.

“Right now it hasn’t affected us,” said Helpling. “I think the department as a whole, we’re well qualified. I think we’re one of the best around. We have good equipment.”

“We just have less guys to do the job,” said Foster. “Everybody just has to step up and do some more. Most department’s are cutting back one way or the other.”