WAXHAW, NC – This week’s column was very special on a personal level. Jalen Benjamin is not only one of the first eight career firefighters hired by the Waxhaw Fire Department, but he is also my sons best friend. Since March, Jalen and 7 other firefighters have been honored to be known as the first class of firefighters hired to full-time career status by WVFD, but what I didn’t know was how he came to join the department four and a half years ago. Jalen told me that he was in weight lifting class at Cuthbertson High School and walked up to a kid in his class and asked about the fire department shirt he was wearing. Turns out that kid was my son, William. William told him it was a great place and that he should come over. Jalen got an application for the Juniors programs and has never looked back. He knew he didn’t want a desk job because he likes working with his hands. He found that firefighting was a great fit for him and since he lives in Waxhaw, the WVFD just made sense.
Jalen has earned several certifications over the years. He holds Firefighter 1 & 2, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Basic Pump Operations and is working on his Hazardous Materials certification.
I know Jalen loves all food, but when I made him pick a favorite he chose burritos “any type as long as it has queso in it.” When he is not working, Jalen likes to play bass guitar, play paintball, and travel to different amusement parks. His favorite place to visit is Grandma’s house in Pawley’s Island where he gets to drive a four-wheeler around and enjoy the scenery.
I asked Jalen if he couldn’t be a firefighter what would he do and with a smile on his face he replied, ” I don’t have a backup plan. This is my dream job.”
Jalen’s Community Tip – If you have gas appliances in your home, make sure to install Carbon Dioxide (CO) detectors in an outlet low to the floor.