Student gives insight into Salisbury firefighter after ride-along

BY ZACH GILLELAND

@zachariahg

Adjusting his glasses and sipping on a glass of tea, Assistant Chief Bryan Records of the Salisbury Fire Department monitors calls coming into the station.

A call comes in, and the loud overhead speakers blare throughout the station assessing the situation. Records then decides whether to send a vehicle to the scene.

He rattles off the Emergency Medical Dispatch codes, or EMD codes, Alpha, Beta, Charlie and Delta, with Alpha the lowest priority. Records calls it resource management, and his job is to oversee Salisbury and its three fire stations.

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Assistant Chief Records (right) eats dinner with fellow firefighter while watching the news. Sitting down and eating is not guaranteed, as dinner was interrupted the night before. A call can be imminent, and the firefighters quickly eat their food. (Zach Gilleland Photo)

Records, 57, calls Salisbury home. The third of four generations of firefighters, the job is in his family’s blood. His son also works with the fire department, working with the EMS crew.

His grandfather founded Station 2 on Brown Street and his father spent 44 years as a Salisbury firefighter. He grew up around it, and even though the generations before him braved the dangers of the job, it was not always certain that Records would follow in his family’s footsteps.

During his adolescence, Records longed for a career in professional football, playing semi-pro at one point in his life. But even with the glamour of pro football, he always knew he wanted to be a firefighter, switching from battling opponents on the field to battling the challenges that face the community on an everyday basis.

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Firefighters are unable to get to every house on time to stop the damage. Records says many owners will leave their houses rotting after a fire. This is just one of the burning buildings left in Salisbury. (Zach Gilleland Photo)

“It is an adrenaline rush unlike anything else,” Records said. “Nothing matches what you encounter when you go into the situations we go into.”

His dream was to be a New York City Firefighter, but with 10,000 signatories on the waiting list, Records stuck to the city that raised him.

In his 38 years as a Salisbury firefighter, he has seen everything from fires, car accidents, drug addictions to renegade firefighters. Yes, renegade firefighters.

The volunteers at Station 1 separated from the fire department, hoping to build their own independent station. Records said the volunteers would not answer to calls and spent their time in a lounge, with four cases of sexual misconduct reported.

There are currently no volunteers at Station 1. Records rotates members from other stations to fill the void.

The opioid addiction that has increased throughout the United States has affected Salisbury greatly. In March of last year, Records said the station saw 20 overdoses over a period of 24 hours.

The job is taxing. Death is a part of the job and many see things that Records says the average citizen would not understand.

“How do you explain when you show up to a house fire and you find a four-year-old literally fried to the floor?” he said. “You cannot explain that to a normal citizen.”

A job that many young children want to do when they grow up, Records says that people do not understand how difficult it can be. They work holidays such as Christmas and can work 24 hours at a time.

He says that they are not perfect, but people have spat at and chastised them for not arriving to the scene quick enough.

Firefighters are unable to get to every house on time to stop the damage. Records says many owners will leave their houses rotting after a fire. This is just one of the burning buildings left in Salisbury.

Records says you have to be physically and mentally strong in order and quickly people figure out whether they are cut out for the job. Programs are available to help firefighters combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Eating and sleeping are not guaranteed either. Dinner takes place at 5:30 p.m., and many times dinner is interrupted with a call. Just in case of a missed meal, Records keeps what he calls a Scooby bag in his car filled with granola bars and other snacks to eat on the go.
If Records is able to make it to bed, it is usually around 1:30 a.m. or 2. He listens to three radios, one monitoring the police and the others to monitor what is going on around the city.

If something pops up, Records is on the scene.

Just a year ago the fire department serviced 13,293 calls. Records likens his job to the Maytag Repairman.

“You do not like seeing anyone hurt,” he said. “But you damn sure want an opportunity to work you trade.”

As an escape from firefighting, Records has worked with the Baltimore Orioles for 22 years, even working as a bullpen catcher in Camden Yards. His time with the organization has yielded him two championship rings with the club and allowed him to meet Oriole favorites such as Cal Ripken Jr., B.J. Surhoff and Nick Markakis and current stars such as Manny Machado.

Although working with the team for 22 years and living in a Baltimore market, Records considers himself a Washington Nationals fan, working with its predecessor the Montreal Expos for a season.

“[Orioles Owner] Peter Angelos turns me,” Records said. “What did they do in the free agent market this season? Nothing.”

With the Orioles he works with its Class A team the Delmarva Shorebirds in Salisbury, helping players unfamiliar to the area find adequate housing, helping them with uniforms and also helping maintain the field.

His job with the Orioles has allowed players from the Shorebirds to take part of ride-alongs with Records, going on scene and seeing the dangers of being a firefighter.

He has even played matchmaker, introducing former Orioles closer Jim Johnson and his wife, a Salisbury University alum.

Alongside a map of the city on his desk, Records carries a copy of the Shorebirds’ schedule and a vacation sheet. He uses his mandatory vacation hours to work with the Shorebirds and records says that even with his hectic schedule he only misses around five games a season.

The job is his stress relief. For a short time he is able to leave the reality of being a firefighter.

“It is the only thing I have been able to achieve where I can leave here and forget what I do,” Records said. “I can forget all the blood and guts of dead people.

If I did not have it I would be a basket case.”

Sports were always his escape.

While driving around he points to a small house. It is where Records grew up, right across the street from Doverdale Park.

He spent many hours at the park, playing sports such as basketball, football and baseball. Growing up in a dangerous area, he points to houses where former childhood friends who have been in-and-out of prison.

The park kept him off the streets.

“It was the perfect deal,” Records said. “It was the only thing that kept me out of trouble.”

A city that Records gives much of his effort protecting, it was this city that almost took his life. He fell through the roof of a burning building during a fire on Riverside Drive.

Records says that at 57 he can still go like when he was young. But in this job, nothing is guaranteed.

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