12 / 2
      6 / -5
      4 / -7

      The life of a volunteer firefighter

      A majority of the U.P. fire departments are completely made of volunteers. They're people that come from all walks of life, donating their time to keep their communities safe.

      When emergency hits, you won't find these people sliding down a pole on their way to the scene. Rather, they'll be rushing in from their own beds, family holidays or even Thanksgiving dinner.

      They're volunteer firefighters--they make rapid rescue response possible for even rural U.P. communities.

      "We get out, and we do the same thing as the paid departments in big cities instead of from a volunteer perspective," says first responder Dennis Karuzas.

      To become a volunteer firefighter, you must pass a physical and take 220 hours of firefighter coursework.

      'When the pager goes off, whether it's 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m., you jump out of bed and go," says 33-year volunteer Reuven Romback.

      In Negaunee Township, they train once a week and respond to a call a few times a month. That may be fires, car accidents, or even downed power lines.

      "You get there before the ambulance gets there, you take care of a patient, get to a house fire, structure fire, brush fire," Romback says. "The sooner you get there, the better it is."

      This service doesn't come at a low price; there's a sacrifice that comes with their families' willingness to share their loved one at any given moment.

      Facebook fan Tracy Mercedes Labonte writes, "My fiancee is a firefighter...I can't describe the feeling I get when his tones go off, and he runs out the door."

      "Our families have come to understand when we wake up from our drool-covered pillow in the middle of the night or we leave Thanksgiving dinner, it's what we do. It's our commitment to the community," Karuzas says.

      Departments are largely run on local donations, and fire crews say others can also help out their community by providing financial support.