Like many little boys, Joseph Ronan wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up. He’d feel the rush when he watched fire trucks pass by his home and dream of the day when he could throw on some fire gear and serve his community.
Luckily, West Haven has a volunteer fire department, so he was able to pursue his lifelong dream.
The 21-year-old fire recruit came to our attention when Orange Deputy Fire Marshal Jamie Vincent, who is the Director of Training at the Valley Fire Chiefs Regional Training School told us about a remarkable student that was attending the current class.
Notice I said Joseph would feel a rush when the trucks passed his home, but the sound of the engines never excited him — Joseph has been deaf since birth.
So how, you may ask can he be a firefighter if he can’t hear? See Video HERE.
Joseph worked possibly harder than any other student in the spring class of 2012, and his classmates all rallied around him.
Vincent said the other trainees came up with ways to communicate with Joseph by tapping on ladders to signal him to lift it, or tapping on his boot to turn left in a smoke filled room, and pulling on his air pack to let him know he had to evacuate the burn building.
Joseph and his interpreters earned the respect of the instructors and students alike.
The interpreters, wanting to understand what he was experiencing, would don full gear and pick up a hose outside the danger zone, hence knowing what it felt like to handle a fully charged fire hose, and so much more.
The interpreters also helped the instructors understand what Joseph was experiencing as a non-hearing person. The partnership was invaluable.
Woodbridge Asst. Fire Chief Chris Parietti also trains firefighters in Connecticut. He said he was impressed with Joseph’s dedication to the profession.
One thing Joseph told us that he could not do was become a state certified firefighter because of his hearing impairment.
The state requires firefighters to be able to talk on a radio — Joseph is non-verbal.
He must hear the radio and fellow firefighters if an evacuation is necessary — obviously he cannot fulfill this requirement.
If Joseph was in a burning building, and he was trapped or other firefighters were in trouble, he would not be able to tell anyone.
If he was on a search and rescue mission and found a victim, he couldn’t let anyone know.
There were a few things that held the state of CT back from clearing Joseph from state certification, but it will not stop him from being a firefighter.
On Wednesday night Joseph graduated with his class in a ceremony at the Woodbridge Fire Department and joined the West Haven Volunteer Fire Department with the Firefighter 1 training behind him.
He can participate in any outside firefighting calls, including brush fires, car fires, extrications, public service events, etc.
Joseph also aspires to become a fire investigator. He hopes to invent a fire alarm for hearing impaired people that combines the two existing alarms that flash a super bright light OR vibrates the person’s bed.
Joesph’s mother Debbie, spoke to Orange Live during a training session at the New Haven Fire School. She said Joseph has wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was a little boy and that he worked really hard to accomplish everything he did at the school. “The words ‘I can’t’ are not in my children’s vocabularies, and that includes joey.” she said.
Whatever Joseph Ronan does in the future he will be a success. You just can’t hold someone like him down. When the Firefighter 1 class began, there were 29 students, but only 20 made it through to the end, and Joseph was one of them.
Our Jamie Vincent addressed him at graduation last Wednesday night. “We’re proud of you, Joe.”