Midway through his first shift as a full-time Saline firefighter, Sean Payeur hadn’t experienced any remarkable calls for service, but he was aware it was a special day.
“When I got up this morning and I was getting ready, it just felt different. The whole day felt different to me,” Payeur said.
Payeur, at 27, is the oldest of three firefighters recently hired by the Saline Area Fire Department. He’s also the most experienced. The 2006 Saline High School graduate has been a paid on-call firefighter with the department for nearly seven years. He’s also filled in for extended periods while firefighters were out with injuries. Still, while Payeur believes his experience is an asset, he’s not taking anything for granted.
“Yeah, I know the guys and a lot of the trucks. But to me this is day one. I’m starting from scratch and I have to re-earn everything I’ve gained,” Payeur said. “Yeah, I have experience, but full-time is a different animal. This is my shift and this is my schedule.”
Firefighting has been something that Payeur has been interested in all his life. After high school, he went off to college and then came back and joined the SAFD as a paid on-call firefirefighter while he worked in landscaping.
“Ever since I was a kid I was interested. At first I thought it was just a thing where I would volunteer and do. But after high school I began to realize it could be a career,” Payeur said. “I began to realize it doesn’t have to be a Detroit or Chicago or New York, you can do it around Saline.”
Part of the job’s appeal is the respect Payeur has for the profession. It’s something that goes back to his childhood, when he heard about firefighters rushing into the World Trade Center on 9-11 to help people while everyone else was running out.
“9-11 was huge impact on me to. You think, ’look at these dudes from the FDNY who went in those buildings. They made the ultimate sacrifice to help people. It’s an admirable profession,” Payeur said. “At the end of the day you can go home, look yourself in the mirror and say ‘I made an honest day’s living today and hopefully helped someone.’”
Payeur, Jake Herter and Zech Johnston were the three candidates chose from 35 applicants. Payeur hoped his experience with the department would give him a leg up.
“I was pumped. I was anxious, nervous and excited. I didn’t want to count my chickens before they were hatched,” Payeur said.
Now that he’s on duty full-time, he’s eager to learn from the veterans.
“I think having the three new guys is good for morale. We’re eager to learn and I think the veterans are happy to teach us. They know that 5, 10 or 15 years from now, they won’t be here. They’re training the guys who’ll still be here,” Payeur said.
The fire department now has nine full-time firefighters and 12 paid on-call firefighters and Fire Chief Craig Hoeft. With the new hires, the department should always have three firefighters on duty.
"It's just going to make it a lot easier when you roll up to a fire, now you've got two guys getting the hose out and getting ready while the other guy runs the truck," Hoeft said.
Over the last 20 years, paid on-call firefighters have had more difficulty leaving work to respond to fire calls. That's one of the reasons Hoeft pushed the fire board, City of Saline and townships of York and Saline to approve the annual $180,000 investment in manpower.