BRIDGEPORT TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (01/10/19) - A long time mid-Michigan fire chief is retiring, but before he leaves, he's hoping his own health scare could save a life.
He's also sounding the alarm about the future of firefighting if more people don't take up the profession soon.
"Its bittersweet, because I really enjoy this, being around the firefighters and the families, we are just one big family," said Bridgeport Township Fire Chief Pat Nelson.
He has been a firefighter for 27 years, the Bridgeport Township Fire Chief for the past 16, and several months ago, he didn't feel right. Some chest pain and a problem with his hand made him call a doctor.
lUitimately I wound up with bypass surgery of the LAD artery, which is also called the widow-maker, I didn't have any of the classic signs and symptoms," Nelson said.
That issue in part has made him make the difficult decision to retire. Even though the 57 year-old Bridgeport School Board member is leaving the roll of emergency responder, he's hoping his story could help save a life.
"It doesn't matter how good of shape you are in, it doesn't matter your age is, when you can't identify what is going on, you need to get help, and I am standing here today because I did that," Nelson admits.
He leaves the profession of firefighting concerned.
"We do not have people coming in, the younger generation coming in to take over for us, I don't know what is going to happen, but it will be a crisis within the next five, to ten years, ten years especially, I think it will be a major crisis that we are going to have to deal with," he said.
He's been on thousands of fire and accident scenes. There will be some things he won't miss, but he will miss this.
"You take this group of people and you are paying them next to nothing, they will come together and solve a major problem, sometimes putting their lives on the line, you send them into a burning building, you are putting them at risk, get them on the highway, and they are at risk, its amazing to watch them work, and I will miss that," Nelson said.
Chief Nelson's last day on the job will be next Friday.
He has accepted a position with a company where the stress level will be little lower than fire chief.