In his book “On the Go,” Beckwourth Fire Chief and former Mobile Intensive Care nurse Greg McCaffrey chronicles his storied careers in vivid detail through a series of short narratives which bring to life some of the most dramatic and memorable experiences of his career.
According to McCaffrey, the idea of writing the book came to him as he shared stories from his past with co-workers and friends at the Beckwourth Fire Department.
McCaffrey’s career first began at the Sierra County Fire Department where he got hands-on experience transporting paramedics to various emergencies around the county.
While observing the paramedics at work, McCaffrey grew curious about the paramedic-side to crisis management and decided to go to school to become a paramedic. Eventually, this pursuit blossomed into McCaffrey’s certification as an MICN — an accomplishment which narrowed his specialization to a focus on pre-hospital settings like helicopters and ambulances.
“You always have a quest for more knowledge” McCaffrey explained when asked why he decided to enter the paramedical field.
During his time at various fire departments and medical centers, McCaffrey has been forced into several heart-wrenching situations, including having to explain why he told the wife of a man in critical condition that her husband was going to be okay when the woman’s husband later died in surgery.
It was tragedies like this which McCaffrey says changed him personally and prompted him to instruct his students to “never make a promise you can’t keep.”
When asked what he found to be the most challenging aspect of his various jobs, McCaffrey said that explaining tragedy to the family members of victims and the deceased is by far the greatest challenge to him on a personal level.
“I can’t deal with the families,” he said. “When mom shows up I can’t deal with that.”
In spite of the tragic nature of some of the calls, McCaffrey said that first responders must always be prepared for the next tragedy because crisis management is a nonstop job.
“You just move on to the next call,” he said. “When you go to work, it’s just nonstop.”
Indeed, McCaffrey said that staying calm under extreme pressure is one of the most important qualities that a firefighter or a first responder can have because of the stressful and nonstop nature of the work.
Nowadays, McCaffrey works fulltime at the Beckwourth fire station as fire chief where he balances the budget and manages daily operations.
When asked whether he would recommend his career track to kids graduating high school now, he said “absolutely.”
“There’s a job in every town, especially as a nurse,” he said.
McCaffrey is currently working on a second book which will depict a whole host of new stories just as he and his team prepare for another fire season in Beckwourth.