MT. PLEASANT — After twenty years on the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department, Ryan Ackles is turning in his gear and entering retirement.
“It’s just time,” Ackles, who attended his last department meeting in early February, said.
The public works employee first joined the fire reserve unit at just 19 years old. Ackles said he based his decision to join on following a friend.
“What started it was a guy I used to work with, a good friend, was on the department and I thought it was kind of interesting so I joined and just kept going. I just thought it was neat,” he said.
But while his motivation to start with the department stemmed from mere interest, what kept him going for twenty years was being able to serve his community alongside his fellow officers.
“Knowing I was helping people made me feel good,” he added.
Ackles said there’s nothing quite like the brotherhood that is formed within the department, which is the thing he’ll miss the most as he takes a step back. He explained the relationship goes beyond having each other’s back during calls.
“The camaraderie, there’s nothing like it,” he said, “We moved to northwest Arkansas and lived out there for a year in the middle of all of this. When I said I was moving, I had about eight guys show up and help load the truck and when I moved back, I had about eight guys show up and unload the truck. They’d drop anything to help you do whatever and it’s kind of neat.”
Despite having spent twenty years at the department, Ackles said there’s no predicting how a call can go. The most valuable lesson he’s learned as a firefighter is to “expect the unexpected.”
“You can train all you want but every fire scene is different, you just kind of need to adapt and whatever you need to do to get the job done,” he said.
And getting the job done sometimes meant putting himself in harm’s way. Ackles said throughout his twenty year tenure, there have been a plethora of memorable calls but the first one that comes to mind is the time he ended up in the hospital with hypothermia.
“We had an accident north of town and it was in the winter time and it had rained all day and the crick was flooding. The car went upside down into the crick and we thought the guy was still in the car. I think a state patrol officer ended up in the emergency room and then there was four of us that got in the water and ended up with hypothermia and ended up at the hospital at night, that one sticks out,” he recalled.
The public works employee said he never really thought or considered the danger of taking on the job. In the thick of action, Ackles said his “training” kicks in, as well as his trust in his partner.
“It’s always two in, two out. The partner you’re with, you trust in him and you don’t even think about the dangers until afterward,” he said.
As he enters retirement, Ackles predicts the most difficult part will probably be seeing his fellow co-workers go off to calls. The public works employee works alongside three other firefighters, including the department’s chief.
“Three of my co-workers that are in [the public works] department, so I’ll know during the daytime every time they go to a fire call. That’ll probably bug me a little bit when I see all of them go help somebody and I’m still at work,” he said.
The department still is on his mind, even though he’s no longer a member of it. Ackles said with a slew of recent retirements, the fire department is “currently down seven or eight members.”
“The biggest thing I can stress would be, if you know somebody is at all considering doing something like this, to encourage them to do it because they need the help,” Ackles stressed.