In the midst of a pandemic where millions of people are forced to stay at home, Sixth Former Henri Waché continues to work as a volunteer firefighter for the Horsham Township Fire Department. Even though the fire department cannot stop its work during a pandemic, Covid-19 has heavily impacted how they work.
“We as a department usually meet weekly, in person. Due to Covid-19, we had to meet online for our meetings and drill nights,” Waché said. “Especially in the early stages (March, April, May), it just sucked because we do a lot of important training and that’s when a lot of us go to fire school, which got canceled, affecting us a fair amount.”
Despite those challenges, his department was quick to recuperate and figure out a way to get back up and operating again.
“The department was one of the ones to bounce back and rebound the most because we’re one of the safest departments around. We have mandatory Covid-19 testing every two weeks and we make sure to take proper safety and health precautions in general,” Waché said.
Given these circumstances, the most important safety factor was how they would maintain safety while putting out fires.
“In terms of actually responding to calls, everyone had to wear masks. Specifically in homes where older people lived, we had to have our EMS agents come and make sure that person doesn’t have Covid,” Waché said. “We do get calls from people who have Covid-19 so we have to treat those cases very seriously.”
As an essential worker, he senses that responsibility he holds to make sure he delivers to his community.
“When you’re out and about, and you see how a lot of businesses have been affected by the situation. You feel pretty good that what you’re doing is still needed during such a troubling time. Regardless of the pandemic, there are still going to be fires, rescues, and more,” Waché said.
Even before he volunteered as a firefighter, he knew he wanted to make an impact to help others. Growing up in a household where family members were involved in the military, he was surrounded by the notion of service.
“My brother’s friends who were always at my house were firefighters. Seeing that at a super young age growing up was pretty interesting,” Waché said.
This exposure to firefighters led Waché to want to volunteer at the fire department.
“When I turned 16, a few days after my birthday, I got sworn in at Horsham Township Fire Department,” Waché said. “I felt that this was a great way to start that service aspect in my life by starting in my community, before opening up to the country,”.
Since he joined the fire department, he has been a part of a number of calls, from fires, rescues, and more.
“Even for being a firefighter for a very short amount of time, I’ve been to a fair amount of calls, some are pretty bad,” Waché said.
In his short tenure as a firefighter, he recalls one moment that he will remember forever.
“It was a FedEx truck that hit a small sedan, multiple cars were involved too. As we got there, we could hear over the radio that there were already two casualties,” Waché said.
This car crash that Waché responded to was a tragedy, yet the bond between himself and his fellow firefighters strengthened from it.
“The people that you are with are not just your teammate or brothers, they are people that you have to trust your life with and rely on,” Waché said. “Taking accountability and having that trust in others and yourself play a big part every day for me as a firefighter.”
When looking back at his experience as a firefighter, Waché says that one of his favorite parts of the job is the thrill of the journey.
“The adrenaline rush when my pager goes off, turning on my blue lights, and going to the station to board up into the truck is a great feeling.
Even though the thrill of the job is immense, the most rewarding part for Waché is the service.
“At the end of the day when you help someone, the fact that you helped someone and made a difference, there’s nothing like it,” Waché said. “That’s why I’m a firefighter.”