Unsung Hero Derek Mehu: Hillcrest Fire Company #1 Volunteer Firefighter

BY BARRY WARNER

Hillcrest Volunteer Fire Company #1 firefighter Derek Mehu is Captain of the Fire Rescue Squad. The Squad uses specialized equipment and knowledge to rescue trapped people or those individuals who are having medical emergencies.

Firefighting is a tough job and volunteer firefighter Derek Mehu possesses the talents, skills and special personal characteristics that are required to rescue trapped people and those individuals having medical emergencies.

“Derek Mehu has almost 8 years with Hillcrest Fire. He is a driver of our apparatus and Captain of our Fire Rescue Squad. As Captain, he and a Lieutenant are responsible to ensure our first aid supplies are up-to-date on our trucks and oversee other Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) within our department. Our EMTs assist us at the scene of accidents, as we look to their expertise in handling patients. At our fires or emergencies, Derek is our go-to-guy” said Assistant Fire Chief Frank Youngman. “If you need something done, just tell him and consider it done. Derek is calm and cool at a fire scene, very rarely gets excited and has great leadership skills. Derek is officer material and I feel that someday or in the very near future, he will be an officer here.”

A Fire Rescue Squad uses specialized equipment and knowledge to rescue trapped people or those who are having medical emergencies. In addition, non-fire rescues include motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents or home collapses. Also, the Firefighter Assist and Rescue Team (F.A.S.T.) is dedicated to the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress.

Derek Mehu told the Rockland County Times, “I have been an active member of the Hillcrest Fire Company for more than 7 years and continue to do so at the age of 23. I joined the department at 16 back in 2009 when I was in high school. I went to Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey and played on the football team like most young, adventurous guys. The commute for summer football camp overwhelmed my resources to get to school. With my lack of transportation, my mother gave me a choice, either football every day or firefighting. Both were time consuming and while I loved football, my heart was truly with Hillcrest and the firefighting field. With time on my shoulders and football off my back, it opened up more opportunity for me to grow as a young firefighter. I quickly took Firefighter 1,2 F.A.S.T. team operations, ice water rescue operations and even went on to further my knowledge by obtaining my New York State EMT certification. I subsequently joined the Spring Hill Community Ambulance Corps, where I served my community to hone my skills with the busiest Volunteer Ambulance Corps in New York State.”

Mehu continued, “As my time with the department progressed, so did my confidence and the trust that my peers and supervisor had in me. In 2015, I qualified as an apparatus driver and pump operator on all of the trucks in the fleet, with the exception of the tower ladder. I was inducted into the Fire Rescue Squad as a Lieutenant in 2015 and I am currently serving as the Rescue Squad Captain. My job is to supervise the men in my unit, as well as provide medical stabilizing care at emergency scenes. All of the men in the squad are certified EMTs.”

“To me, the firehouse and the firefighting field has been something that has interested me since I was a young child. I could never see myself doing any other occupation and made it my primary goal to attain in life. I would always watch firefighting videos on YouTube in awe, wishing that I would gain the opportunity one day. So as soon as I reached the age of 16, I joined Hillcrest. It was one of the best, if not the best decision I have made in my life, so far. Hillcrest to me isn’t just my volunteer firehouse, it’s legitimately like a second house. Ever since joining, I usually visit the firehouse at least once a day and not a week will ever go by where I don’t visit or go on an emergency run. The thrill of the pager going off and rushing to someone’s aid never get old. I believe that is what makes the emergency field so alluring, you never know what will happen next. One minute you are fighting a multiple dwelling fire on a 100 degree day and the next challenge is extricating a victim out of rolled-over car on the Palisades Parkway. We work hand-in-hand with EMS and the Police, so everyone is familiar with how operations are conducted, which makes everyone more efficient and well-rounded.”

“I volunteer because it is something I truly just enjoy doing in life. The fact that I just happen to reside in the Hillcrest District and was able to join couldn’t be anything less than a blessing. The extensive knowledge of the field, the experiences that I gained and the lifelong relationships that I built with friends and co-workers are what made me the man I am today.  All the nights of my parents questioning my whereabouts were no detriment. I applied my skills over the years at Hillcrest and joined the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) as an EMT. What I enjoy most is seeing the difference made in the lives of people by utilizing my humor to lighten up the frightening predicaments. No matter how bad a situation is, just calm yourself. People look up to you, so you have to maintain a certain demeanor, which goes a long way. Family and the little things in life are what you appreciate when ‘your life is on the line’ everyday. I have grown physically, spiritually and mentally learning from the harsh realities of life that I get to see. Many people have not been fortunate enough to get the same guidance, so I appreciate everything God and my family have provided me with. Within one year, I should, God willing, be on the suppression side of the FDNY.  Fire Suppression Systems are used to extinguish or prevent the spread of fires in a building or vehicles. Suppression systems use a combination of dry chemicals and wet agents to suppress fires. When I look back, I’ll be nothing but proud to say I started my path as a volunteer.”

For additional information about volunteering for Hillcrest Fire Company #1, call (845) 356-0347 or access www.hillcrestfd.org