As a boy, Michael Scheetz heard stories from his volunteer firefighter grandfather.
Stories about helping people and saving his lives. Put a buzz in his ear, those stories did. A buzz he could not shake.
Now, Scheetz will have his own stories to tell.
On Nov. 19 Scheetz completed an eight-week training for the Wilmette Fire Department.
"It's the best job in the world," said Scheetz, 32, from Crete, IL. "Helping people on their worst day ever. It's great. That's why I'm here."
He had been working as a landscaper since about 1995, and credits the work with giving him physical strength and endurance—two necessary attributes for a firefighter—he said.
"Landscaping is hard work. You're out in all kinds of weather."
Firefighting also requires emotional strength. As a volunteer firefighter in Crete, he has seen his share of vehicular accidents, but one in particular stood out. About a year ago, two teenagers were involved in a car wreck. Both had been critically hurt, with one looking like he might have to have a leg removed. It was stressful for Scheetz to see two young men so close to death and physically maimed. He and his fellow firefighters got them to a hospital. He didn't know them, but he followed their progress. Four months after the accident, he was told the young man who he thought might lose his leg, walked out of the hospital on both his legs.
"It was amazing," Scheetz recalled. "I was very happy for him. I never saw him again. You move on to the next call, to the next person who needs you. That's the job. I don't need thank you's. The job is thanks enough."
He looks forward to his work in Wilmette. He had tested for about a dozen fire departments but Wilmette was always at the top of his list. He liked the men and women working for its fire department, and its decades old history.
"Wilmette's a gorgeous area," Scheetz said. "Everyone I meet here is great. I like the idea that I'll be contributing, making it better."
The hours of a firefighter can be long, but between calls Scheetz said he will continue educating himself. He will have much to learn in Wilmette; he has been with the department just two months. He will need to become acquainted with his fellow firefighters, the people of the town and maps of the area. There will always be something. The next call, inhouse duties. Something as simple as cleaning a the department rest room. There really isn't down time.
Except of course on his off days. Just married this year, Scheetz will spend his down time with his wife and their new puppy a bull dog.
"I've got a job and family I love," he said. "It really is the best job in the world."