Jeff Czapor

Jeff Czapor

“It’s a unique role that I’ve never seen myself in before, that just by me being there, I’m helping.”

Jeff Czapor

Jeff Czapor

Where are you from? New Jersey, by the shore. 

How did you end up in Jackson? I had a bunch of college friends that I skied with and I took a week’s vacation out here and on the flight home I just had my head in my hands and knew I had to move back, so I quit my job, packed up my jeep, and moved back out. Kind of like everybody else, I thought I would be here for a winter. That was in 2012.

In your words, what is your role in the department? Kind of to fill the voids that I observe or that leadership observes. Obviously coming in as a new member, I provide a unique skill set by having all the certifications that I have to offer. They’re all proboard and all through the county, so I am a new member with existing certifications and all those certs were with the instructor cadre that we have here. I have sort of been able to be a puzzle piece that is able to be fit in a lot quicker and is trusted with a lot of roles early on. Obviously with this pending application, hopefully that answer is totally different in 6 months. I just want to be an asset. (Spoiler: he got hired!)

How long have you been a part of JH Fire/EMS? I’ve been a part of Jackson Hole Fire/EMS since January of 2022.

What about your role in the village department? I’m a lieutenant now, but I didn’t really think I had a desire for emergency services until Captain Feik presented it to me as, ‘you know the ins and outs of all these structures and we could use somebody with that type of skill set to come play with fire trucks.’ So Fire 1, I went through that. I won academic excellence for that and that’s when it started to dawn on me that maybe this is something I could excel at. That was in 2019. Everytime I thought I was at a plateau that I would be satisfied with, it turns out that I wasn’t. Fire 1 was great. I’ll do Fire 2. Maybe that’ll be enough. That wasn’t enough, so let me do ADO, and that wasn’t enough. Back to back to back. It kind of just kept evolving and every step that presented itself, I moved forward with.

So you’ve been in the village since 2019 with fire certs only. How do you feel about the medical world now? I’ve started to realize that the reason why I wasn’t necessarily attracted to it was because I didn’t have any knowledge base or experience in it, and when I reflected back on what I used to not know about the fire side of things, because I didn’t fully understand it, I wasn’t necessarily drawn to it. That’s kind of what I’m discovering now with emergency medicine: I wasn’t necessarily opposed to it, but because I didn’t have any knowledge base to build on, I didn’t have a desire to explore it. So now I’m going to put my mind to it and see if I can’t get similar results that I’ve gotten in the past. When you really start to realize how vulnerable you and the people around you are and you’re really acutely aware of all these threats that are around you, that people do get hurt and do have medical issues all the time… I don’t not want to know how to help anymore. Whether it be in a professional setting on shift or something you come across or a friend or family member, I just want to know what’s going on.

What made you want to join this department? This department … it was just more. More trainings, more call volume, more experience, just continuing to get those reps in. Double up on everything.

What are your current certs? Fire 1, Fire 2, ADO, Redcard, Hazmat. I went to Riverton and got fire investigation for the first responder this last summer. It was a very cool atmosphere, it was a good refresh for fire science and flow path and what those guys are seeing as cutting edge tactics and what they’re moving away from. Things that we see as the best tactic right now, might not be the best tactic 5 years from now. I mean, you look back 20 years ago and the tactic was to break open every window. It was cool to get that insight from guys who are on the forefront of that type of research and experience. Those shorter courses are cool to refresh and enhance your skill set.

What are your future goals in the department? Short term is to get myself a class B and a shift schedule I guess. (He has since done that!)

What do you do for work? Currently I’m a property manager, mainly in residential maintenance. It gives me a little bit of insight on a little bit of everything…building construction, plumbing, electrical…it allows me to see things a little bit differently and diagnose and troubleshoot. It helps a lot with fire stuff. 

What do you do in your free time? Oh, I like to ski, and after years of avoiding mountain biking because of a 100% injury rate, I bought a mountain bike. Those are the two big ones. 

And? Have you injured yourself since? Yep…it’s awesome but it’s terrible. Anyways…I love downhill-esque sports. I enjoy a nice flat walk through the woods, but moving quickly downhill is preferable. I like the easy ways uphill.

What would you say is your favorite part of volunteering here or in the village? I like driving and pumping. What reasonable person doesn’t want to drive a fire truck? 

Were you one of those kids that always wanted to be a firefighter? I don’t know…I think I probably wanted to do hazmat actually. I think when I was in the fourth grade, I did a whole presentation on hazardous materials. I’ve thought about doing hazmat technician but it’s a lot of work if you aren’t going to constantly refresh it on a shift. 

What is the most satisfying or rewarding part of volunteering? I guess the calm that you can present to people, whether it be a true emergency or a false alarm, I think it’s rewarding to see that reassurance in them when they’re calmed down by your presence. It’s a unique role that I’ve never seen myself in before, that just by me being there, I’m helping. Hopefully we can help more than just being there, but chances are you’re going to be meeting people on the worst day of their lives, so that’s something to keep in mind. Hopefully we can make it better.

What would you say is the most challenging part? From what I’ve seen, it’s the retention of knowledge. It’s really easy to lapse on stuff, and if you’re not getting the reps in and if you lose that muscle memory…Just because you have a cert, doesn’t mean that cert stays with you. If you’re not careful and you aren’t constantly recertifying yourself, then you aren’t going to be nearly as effective. I mean, who do we see as kind of the best firefighters? It’s those people coming out of Fire 1: they have all the answers, they’re the quickest in the 2 minute drill. I think if you’re not constantly pushing yourself, not just further, but backward too, to make sure that everything you already have achieved is up to par, then you’re going to lose it.

What advice would you give new recruits? It’s what you put in. That’s sort of a broad answer for everything in life, that what you put in is what you get out. No one has to be here: you aren’t forced. It’s that mindset that you get out what you put in.

What do you wish you had known when starting? That even though I wasn’t super interested in the medical side to start, I wish I had gotten that baseline EMR just so I could be helpful for those initial patient assessments and have just one more tool. I was worried about burning out in the first 12 months because that would have been Fire 1, Fire 2, Redcard, and EMR all in one year. I was concerned so I focused on the path that interested me more. But maybe that baseline medical would have been something I wish I had known. Fire ground is a constantly evolving situation, and obviously we’ve seen that medical emergencies can arise all the time.

What would you say is the most important skill or trait for someone to have in the department? I think a lot of it is being true to yourself. Dedication is one thing. No one has to be here, so if you don’t want to be here then what are you doing? I think sometimes you do see that in people who aren’t really in it anymore and that obviously is going to reverberate through their contributions and their effects on other people, so if you wanna be here, make sure you’re giving everything you’ve got.

What do you think you bring to the department? Just that kind of dynamic role filling…I want to be able to be utilized wherever people need me. I want people to look at me and not feel restricted in what task they can assign me. I’d like to think I can just brighten the mood too. I think you could consider that a critical skill. Sometimes the right thing just needs to be said. I keep repeating it, but I want to be an asset. Obviously there’s things I’d rather do more than others, but I want to be able to do it all.

Who is your mentor or who do you look up to? Paul Feik, he’s the one who kind of started it all for me at the village and he’s been a really close friend of mine, so obviously I really trusted him when he said that this would be something I would be a good fit for. He’s definitely pushed me in his own really unique way. He was definitely the biggest proponent because if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think it would have dawned on me in the first place. Living with (Steve) Wurm definitely kind of expanded it. He’s the one who put it in my ear to start putting in time with the county as well. I think those two dictated my path pretty significantly.