Jason Bruni

” [My favorite aspects of volunteering] are the people.
It’s definitely awesome working with the people..”

Jason Bruni

Jason Bruni

Volunteer FFII/EMR

Station 1: Jackson

Where are you from? I guess Woodinville, Washington. 

How did you find Jackson? Through friends who convinced us to move here and be ski bums and that Jackson was the best place and not Whistler. This is now where I want to spend the rest of my life. We moved here mid-recession, earlish in 2009. We turned down so many houses before we found one that we wanted. Could you imagine that today? We were really lucky.

Yeah no kidding! What is it that you do for work? Well, I build homes with Teton Habitat and I have my own nonprofit rebuilding bikes for kids and teaching them how to do repair work, and I work part time for the children’s museum fundraising for them, and I think I’m about to re-pickup teaching cooking classes for middle schoolers. I guess that’s more volunteer work but…

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any free time? I actually do. I took some time recently to make sure that I give myself free time. Outside of my work…well my work is sort of my free time. Rebuilding bikes for kids is something I just enjoy doing which is how it became my passion job and non profit. Outside of that though, I ski and I bike and I pretend like I’m a hunter but I don’t hunt as much as I probably should and I fish. Oh, and I workout, does that count as a free time activity? I do it with intention though so I don’t know if that counts. I do it because one time I was out of shape doing a fire drill and I said to myself, ‘never again am I going to feel like this, especially in a live fire,’ so from then on I have been ensuring that I am in good physical condition.

How long have you been a part of JH Fire/EMS? For five full years, since January of 2018.

What made you want to join JH Fire/EMS? I had volunteered a decent amount in town with different organizations over time and was still open to more. So usually the department would have its all department meeting in the spring or early summer, and that year no one would host them. I told my boss at the time, ‘It’s the fire department, we should take this.’ Because of that conversation, I started talking to Shannon and Kelly from admin and Kelly told me they were taking volunteers, so I signed up in 2016. Unfortunately, I had also had a little back injury and Doctor Smith reviewed my file and said I couldn’t work because of it. Luckily he said that because a few months later, I was doing something and it was the old classic bend, lift, and twist and then I really went down. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I could have been accepted and really hurt. Chief Redwine called me and was like ‘We’re really sorry but it’s a safety thing, we can’t bring you on right now.’ I told them that day: ‘I’m gonna be back, I’m gonna be healthy, and I’m gonna apply again.’ I don’t think they believed me, but I spent the next year getting in shape. I hiked more, and I wasn’t lifting yet, but sure enough two years later in 2018 I got accepted.

What is your role in the department? Volunteer out of Station 1.

What are your current certifications? BLS instructor, firefighter 2, EMR.

What are your future goals in the department? That’s a tough one. I’m back and forth on making it through one more year with what I have or doing more. I’m looking to get my swamper/sawyer certification. That’s kind of at the top of my list right now. 

Can you choose a favorite part of volunteering? Maybe it’s a tie between the people: it’s definitely awesome working with the people. So that, and structure fires. Especially when you get to do actual cool work. Actually, just say fires. I won’t eliminate wildland fires either, I do love those too. Pretty much if something is on fire, I’m pretty hyped to be there.

What do you find to be most challenging? For me, I guess keeping up on and being realistic about how much training and experience I want to have versus how realistic it is for me to actually squeeze it in. In an ideal world, I would be taking shifts somewhat regularly. But the reality is with my kid, I would have to choose a week when we don’t have any time together because with my work we only have one day a week together. It would be so unfair to him. I want to train more. I want to put more reps in. I want to show up and have someone think ‘oh good, someone who knows what’s going on is here.’ And as a volunteer, I sometimes don’t feel that way. Like sometimes when people say ‘oh you’re a firefighter?’ And I’m like ‘no, don’t get too excited, I’m just a volunteer.’ A lot of the knowledge is all of the small things that you get when you’re there 48 hours a week. Effectively, career staff are at the station for 3 days a week in any 7 day span. Out of 365 days a year, maybe 5 or 7 times will we go with a charged hoseline into a burning building. If you’re not on shift and you’re not doing those trainings often, it’s really hard to keep up your skills for those few days when things really get exciting.

What advice would you give new recruits? I feel like it’s very easy to fall into colloquialisms. Like, ‘wellll come on in with an open mind…’ but being open minded and being prepared to work harder than you think you’re gonna is crucial, because I think there are lots of people who want to say they’re a firefighter. Well what does that mean? Oh, you mean I gotta bust ass with 60 pounds of gear on at best while breathing positive air and actively taking breaths? We had people dropping out left and right…I think people just think it’s easier because we’re in a small town. It’s like a paramilitary school in other places. It’s not like that here. Here, where you have academy. You have EMR. You have wildland. You have EVOC. Ok, now you’re good to go. So I would say to dive in and do all the trainings and take this as seriously as you can, because the reality is, we just don’t have enough fires or trainings to make us perfect firefighters.

What do you wish you had known when starting? There’s like the external thing and the internal thing to share and the internal thing is much more spicy. My mentor told me at the end that his whole goal was to see if he could keep himself entertained for another year, so by the end I knew maybe half of what the other people around me knew. So I wish I knew to ask other people for help. I also wish I knew more people, that would have been cool. Some of the people in my class knew a lot of folks in the department so they had a good understanding of what expectations of them looked like.

What is the most valuable skill or trait for someone to have in the department? I would say your work ethic and being a lifelong learner. Somebody who’s willing to always accept that someone else always knows more than you and then being able to learn from that person. Once you think you know everything, that’s how you get yourself or someone else killed. So someone who’s open minded and always willing to ask questions and take advice.

What do you think you bring to the department? I fill in the gaps. I don’t know. I bring a decent amount of anxiety that keeps people moving. And I occasionally make jokes that make other people laugh. 

Who is someone that you look up to in the department? There are a lot of people I look up to…Cranston is an easy one. I really love everyone at Station 1, and I say that just because I know or have worked with almost all of them. I don’t mean to exclude other stations. Everybody there brings something awesome. It’s hard to point out who hasn’t inspired me there. I love Tobey, Sessions, Thurston, Abel…they have all been amazing. I truly do appreciate everyone who’s invested in me. Pretty much everyone there is a good role model. 

Fave hazard/call type? Anything with a fire!