Jason Griffin caught the itch for fire service at a young age.
It helped that his dad worked as a lieutenant with the City of Beloit Fire Department for 28 years.
“When I was a kid, I was excited to run around the fire station and turn on the lights and sirens, and I’d sit and pretend I was driving the fire trucks,” he says. “When I was 9, I decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.”
Griffin’s love for fire service spills into two cities. To improve responses along the Illinois/Wisconsin state line and to provide structure to the South Beloit Fire Department, Griffin works as fire chief in South Beloit, Ill., and as deputy chief for the City of Beloit Fire Department.
“It keeps me busy, it helps out both communities and it keeps me young,” he says.
Griffin joined the Rockton Fire Explorers Post when he was 14, essentially starting his firefighting career in an organization that’s similar to Boy Scouts but tailored toward future firefighters.
“We’d train once a week at the fire station and we’d participate in competitions, so at 14, I was fully diving into fire service. When I turned 18, I joined the Rockton Fire Department,” he says.
These days, Griffin spends the majority of his time in Beloit and about 10 hours a week in South Beloit.
At least, that’s what it says on paper.
“If I’m at home, and there’s an incident that happens in South Beloit, I can just respond from home,” says the Rockton, Ill., native. “I never have a 40-hour work week because that’s not in my vocabulary. I work 50 and 60 hours a week just to make sure I have enough time for both departments. It’s a busy work schedule, but it’s well worth the time that I put in.”
If anyone wants to get involved with fire service, Griffin suggests volunteering first.
“Take fire classes at a tech school and learn what the industry is really like,” he says. “Start out by volunteering at a smaller department to see if you like it and if you do, you can start looking at getting your education.”
When he’s not putting out fires or responding to other emergencies, Griffin participates in other forms of community work, including Vets Roll, Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin Honor Guard and youth hockey.
But his passion is fighting fires, and he gives credit to his family for being his biggest support.
“My wife and kids know if there’s a fire call, they understand sometimes I won’t always be there,” says Griffin, a father of two. “They make a bigger sacrifice than I do, but I do this for the love of fire service.”