Bonus Interview with Matt Barnes from Burned
By Suzanne Winslow
Doing his chief a favor, Matt agrees to an interview with AMK, a reporter with a Grand Rapids newspaper, for a human interest story about the life of a firefighter. They meet at Ernie's, a popular bar and grill across the street from the firehouse where Matt works.
AMK: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, especially on your day off.
MB: My pleasure. *He looks over his shoulder as someone chuckles his name from behind the bar.*
AMK: Do you mind if I record our interview?
MB: Not at all.
AMK: *She retrieves a small recorder from a leather tote, turns it on, then sets it on the table between them.* Thank you. First,
let me say my eight-year-old son is going to be so excited to hear I met a firefighter today. Could you tell me about your
job, specifically, and how long you've been doing it?
MB: I'm a lieutenant and paramedic with a heavy rescue company. We go on calls for different types of extrications: confined
space, water, working fires, accidents where someone is trapped. I've been with the fire department for ten years and a
lieutenant for two years.
AMK: What made you want to become a firefighter?
MB: *He thanks a server when she delivers two glasses of water to their table.* I was hurt when I was a kid and I remember
being in awe of everyone who took care of me. The experience left a big impression and over time, I decided that's
what I wanted to do.
AMK: Obviously you have a dangerous job. Have you ever been seriously injured at work?
MB: "He nods." I've been hurt-bruised ribs, minor burns, cuts, sprains-but nothing serious. I've never been hospitalized
because of work.
AMK: *She sips her water, noting the steady stare the young, attractive server gives Matt from behind the bar, and that Matt
is not wearing a wedding band.* That's good to hear. So what does a typical work day look like for you?
MB: It varies. A shift starts with making sure all the trucks and equipment are ready for the next call. Typically there's training
we have to do. We maintain the firehouse, like cleaning, laundry, washing the trucks. We have a small gym where we're
required to work out. Sometimes there's a community service event, like a tour of the firehouse or a school visit. Plus,
there's always paperwork that needs to be done after each call.
AMK: Sounds like a lot of responsibility, and rather exhausting. What do you do on your down time, when you're not stuck
talking to a reporter?
MB: *He smiles, shifting so his back is more to the bar, maybe sensing the extra attention he's getting from their server.* I
like to go out on the lake, fishing, boating. During the winter, I travel to California to visit my family.
AMK: Speaking of family, how do they feel about your job? How do they handle the worry they must feel for you?
MB: *He slides his water glass to the side and then leans forward, folding his arms on the table.* We have an agreement. If
I go out on a big call, whether or not they might hear about it on the news or the internet, I make sure to talk to them
afterward and tell them I'm okay. It's not a big deal, but it makes them feel better. They trust I'll let them know I'm alright.
AMK: *She notes he doesn't mention which members of his family he calls, and decides to come back to that later.* What did
you do before you became a firefighter?
MB: I went to college. The timing was right and I was hired by the department a couple of months after I graduated.
AMK: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
MB: I went to Penn State and studied Business Management.
AMK: *She smiles and shakes her head.* That seems an unusual path to firefighting.
MB: *He shrugs and smiles back.* There were no guarantees I would get into the fire department. It could take months or
years to get in. I was encouraged to have a backup plan. Truthfully, though, I wanted to play college baseball so when
I was offered a baseball scholarship, everyone was happy.
AMK: *Married not dead, she glanced at his bare ring finger again when curiosity got the better of her.* Are you married?
MB: *He gets a contemplative look on his face.* No, not yet.
His phone rings on the table. A picture of a beautiful, dark-haired woman appears on the screen. He looks torn for a
AMK: *She starts to push back her chair.* Go ahead, I'll give you a minute.
MB: *He puts up his hand.* You don't have to leave, this shouldn't take long.
MB: *His bright blue eyes reflect affection and concern as he lowers his head and answers the phone.* Hey, is everything
okay? I'm still at Ernie's.
AMK: *Immediately aware the firefighter was in love, she looks over to the server, thinking the poor young woman doesn't
stand a chance.*
MB: Good. No, it's okay. I'll see you in a little while. Great. *He raises his eyes to the reporter, then lowers them again.* I love
AMK: I won't keep you any longer. Thank you again for meeting with me. The article will be in the paper next week. Would you
mind, though, if I stopped by the firehouse before then, maybe took a few pictures of you in uniform?
MB: *He hesitates, seemingly uncomfortable with the attention.* Sure, no problem. Why don't you come by when you can
bring your son? The last time I gave a tour to a seven-year-old he had a great time.
AMK: *She drops back in her seat.* Thank you, he would love it. And, Matt?
MB: *He stands, eyeing the door like someone is waiting for him.* Yes?
AMK: Stay safe out there.