A firefighter is about as close to a real-life superhero as most of us will ever meet. Watching a big, red fire truck speed its way in the direction of danger evokes emotions of fascination and awe.
For one family in the Charlotte Fire Department, these guardians come as a dynamic duo.
In 1993, when Kelvin Brim was in high school, he felt a calling to serve, but his quest to become a firefighter was not going to be an easy task.
As a high school kid, Brim was part of a fire explorer program in California. Typically, fire explorer is a hands-on experience that utilizes classroom lectures, practical applications and opportunities to ride along with fire crews. He aged out of the program but continued to have a burning desire to join the force of firefighters.
“Back then, the LA County Fire Department only tested every six or seven years. There were thousands of applicants, and it’s extremely hard to get on,” Brim said. “You have to get that first shot right because if you don’t make it when they’re giving that test, then you’ll have to wait another six or seven years.”
He took the test and passed, but he wasn’t selected.
As a young couple right out of high school, Brim and his wife, Quincze, were both working and then had their first child. The Brims were both attending college but were suddenly let go from their jobs because of staff cutbacks.
“Times got a little lean,” he said. “We were living off a little bit of the money and eating ramen noodles and tacos every night.”
It was time for a new plan.
Spending some of her childhood in Charlotte, Brim’s wife mentioned the Queen City as a place where he could apply for a firefighting position.
“We were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hawthorne California and didn’t have much to lose,” he said. “We had some money saved up that we set aside for me to go to paramedic school. Times got rough.”
They decided to take a chance, so he flew to Charlotte to take the written examination for the Charlotte Fire Department.
It was a success and he passed the first round of exams, but there would be five more trips between California and Carolina before he would find out if he’d get the job.
On his sixth trip to Charlotte, it was time for his final interview. In a gray suit, Brim walked to the government center on a rainy day with a broken umbrella.
“This was it, and I was going to have to lay all my cards on the table,” he said. “Chief Duffy and Chief Taylor said, ‘We’ve never seen anyone show this kind of dedication and commitment to this department to want to be a firefighter. We want to offer you employment today.’”
It was a good day for the Brim family.
In May 1998, Brim, his wife and son packed up their clothes, toys and anything else that would fit into their Windstar van and drove a couple thousand miles to their new home in Charlotte.
Fast forward to 2020, and that rookie firefighter is now a battalion chief. His heart for serving to better the community hasn’t stopped.
“I enjoy working with the youth, using my platform as a firefighter to mentor and provide them with opportunities to learn about the fire service,” Brim said.
Among his various duties, Brim oversees recruitment, leads employee engagement for diversity, equity and inclusion, and he is about to launch a cadet program for people who are interested in a career in the fire service.
And that fire explorer program in California that ignited his passion to become a firefighter, Brim guides a similar program for the Charlotte Fire Department.
Through the programs he directs, Brim tries to provide the younger generation with the knowledge, skills and abilities to overcome their circumstances.
Over two decades have passed since joining the department, and now Brim’s son, Brian, will continue the family legacy. Brian is a firefighter working at Station 34.
Most firefighters are humble, and you’ll hear them downplay their gargantuan tasks and say they’re just doing their job. However, they are, in fact, heroes for their work and often place their own lives at risk in order to protect the community and their fellow firefighters.
© 2020 Cox Media Group