Mike Combs: WRTFD Engineer finds his passion for firefighting as a young child
Compiled by Nicole Davis
Firefighter/paramedic Mike Combs works throughout the year to preserve memories of the work done by other personnel from the White River Township Fire Department. Since 2000, he’s done marketing for the department by filming, now using GoPro cameras, and putting together a Year in Review video for the Employee Recognition Banquet.
“Everybody likes the way they come out,” Combs says. “They like to see themselves at the end of the year and the things they do. Deep down everyone likes to hear a thank you and see the great job they do all day.”
Combs, who resides in New Whiteland, grew up in Greenwood and attended Greenwood Community schools. He became a cadet with the Greenwood Fire Department at 15 years old and served there until age 19. He pursued a career in radio broadcasting, leaving Indiana in 1992 to work in radio, moving to North Dakota then Michigan. He continued to work as a firefighter in each place he moved. He moved back to Indiana in 1997 and became a full-time dispatcher for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired part-time to the WRTFD in 1997 and became full-time in 2004. He is an engineer, driving the truck at Station 53.
“There’s the excitement of not knowing what you’re getting into but the excitement that you’re going to help someone every day,” Combs says. “It’s an area that I grew up in. It’s always nice to serve where you grew up because you know the people that work with you and know the outlying areas because you’ve been there all the time. It makes your day go a lot better.”
The videos which Combs compiles can be found on youtube.com by searching WRTFD.
Combs and his wife, Amy, have two children, Braedon and Madison.
What was your inspiration to become a police officer/firefighter?
Watching Emergency growing up, a TV show from the 1970s that a lot of guys watched about the first paramedics in Los Angeles County and the struggle they had to get the legislature to allow firefighters to do paramedicine. Being 6, 7 years old, it kind of gets your blood pumping, and I kept that (interest) up until I graduated high school.
What has been one of your most gratifying moments on the job?
There are a lot of moments that are all gratifying. Every run that we do is gratifying. The most gratifying would be someone that has cardiac arrest, we bring them back and they leave the hospital and continue a great life. You get to meet them a month or so afterwards. We don’t have a chance to see a lot of the people that we help but when we do it makes us feel good, like we were a part of that.
What aspect of the job do you find most challenging?
The most challenging is the not knowing what’s happening every day. When the alarm goes off and we’re called somewhere, we don’t know what we will encounter. Sometimes, if it’s a call for a fire it will say the fire is out and it may not be out. Sometimes we get different information than what we see or more information than what it really is. We’re always thinking ahead and figuring out what is going to happen.
What do you enjoy doing in your off-time?
Being with my family is the biggest thing in the world. My son is 7 and my daughter is 2. Watching them grow up and make sure they grow up right is my number one. I like to bowl. I fly airplanes and try to get up in the air as much as I can.
What are your future goals, professionally or personally?
I’ve got 27 years in the fire service, with almost 16 here. In the next 15 years, I want to continue growing with this department. I want to eventually become a lieutenant, climb the ranks and hopefully battalion chief by the time I retire. I also work for the Indiana Task Force One, the urban search and rescue team in Indianapolis, in their communications division. I want to continue with them as well.
What would you have done if you hadn’t of became a police officer/firefighter?
Probably I would have gotten a degree in communications and would have liked to have commanded a 911 center. I do that part-time now. My other love is 911 dispatching.