FAIRFIELD — Yes, Fairfield Fire Capt. Phil Bailey says, he was kind of pushed into his firefighting career. But he says it was probably the best push he ever got.
Bailey had initially looked at starting a law-enforcement career, but was not old enough to get into the police academy when his mother suggested he check out one of Fairfield’s fire stations.
Firefighter Houston Grimm saw something in Bailey, called the department’s main station, “and told them to get out an application for me,” Bailey said.
It was after serving a few months as a volunteer that Bailey determined that this was the career for him, “because of the team aspect and because no two days are ever the same.”
Earlier this month, Bailey was named the Fairfield Fire Department’s Firefighter of the Year by his peers as an example of hard work, dedication and respect. He joins Battalion Chief John Sturdee, who was named Officer of the Year, and Nick Rubin, who was named Reserve of the Year.
The three will be honored in February at a department ceremony and join honorees from Solano County’s other fire departments and fire protection districts at a March ceremony hosted by the Rotary Clubs of Solano County.
Bailey said he was shocked to get the honor. He pointed out there are a lot of other equally deserving people in the department “who put a lot of time and effort into making this department a better place.”
While serving as a volunteer, he also worked as a paramedic for three ambulance companies – including one in rural Lake County where he learned “you always listen to the locals” in order not to get lost on that county’s many remote back roads.
Bailey was hired as a firefighter paramedic with the Fairfield Fire Department in 2001. He called it the place he “always wanted to work.”
“It was that euphoric feeling that you got (that job) that you were working for,” Bailey said of getting hired on in Fairfield.
As a Fairfield native, he said it is not unusual to go on calls where he meets people he has known since he was young. He said it is sometimes stressful to go on calls that involve families of friends.
In 2007, he was promoted to engineer. He made captain in April, a rank he says he never expected to get when he first started.
Bailey said the best parts of his job are “that you get to go out there and make a difference” and getting to work “with a great group of people.”
“We have a lot of young guys who are coming on,” Bailey said. “There is a lot of excitement and opportunity here, and a lot of promise.”
The most challenging part of his job is spending days away from his family while on duty or even spending longer times apart when he is sent out of the area to take on wildfires in other parts of the state.
“That can be tough,” Bailey said, “missing Christmases and birthdays.”
He’s stationed at the department’s Cordelia substation. Duty time is split between calls, training and planning how best to quickly respond to fire or medical emergencies in different parts of that area.
“It sheers off valuable seconds,” Bailey said of the planning.
Bailey said he has no interest in leaving Fairfield or its fire department “because it is my home.”
Bailey and his wife Megan have two sons, 3-year-old Ryan and 1-year-old Dylan. Will they follow in their father’s footsteps?
“If they become firefighters, fine, and if life leads them somewhere else, it’s fine, too,” he said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.
Note: Corrects title of honor in previous version.