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First Responder of the Month: Oxford Fire Department’s Rob Johnson

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Can you imagine changing your careers in your 30s? Rob Johnson, a firefighter at Oxford Fire Department, did that seven years ago when he left his occupation as a self-employed photographer and hasn’t looked back since.

Before his career change, he was a self-employed photographer who “did everything” especially take sports photography for the University of Mississippi for 12 years. He was dissatisfied with his occupation then and decided it was time for a change somehow.

“I talked to a friend who said I should be a firefighter,” said Johnson. “He said it fits my personality well. That put a thought in my mind and I thought, ‘You know what, he’s a smart man.’ I always loved outdoors and hunting so it was a good fit for me. I wish I had done it earlier.”

By Johnson’s estimate he’s probably the oldest firefighter hired by the city’s fire department at 44. Now 50 years old, his age doesn’t show in his abilities though. Johnson went through a lengthy three-step process: a written test, a physical test (the hardest since “a lot of people don’t pass it,” said Johnson) and finally an interview.

There are eight courses in the Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT). The first is a stair step, then a hose drag, tool carry and ladder raise, forcible entry, and a search, a rescue and finally a ceiling breach and pull. This exam must be passed in 10 minutes, and Johnson obviously answered that challenge.

In this video Johnson talks about his specific position in driving the popper truck, better known as the truck with the ladder on it. The truck he drives has to be the first on scene.

He has answered a good bit of fires in his firefighting career, and he said the most memorable for him was a hard choice. “The Gin fire was the biggest by far,” he said, “And it’s still a mystery how it burned down. The second one is the bowling alley fire.”

To him, his career change is well worth it. Spending 48 to 72 hours at the fire station with his coworkers isn’t tedious — it’s like a second home. “I spend more time here than I do at home,” said Johnson. “They’re my family too. We’re all real close.”


Callie Daniels is a staff reporter with HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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