Roy Johnson of Portage is in the business of saving lives. From humble beginnings as a lifeguard, to a paramedic with EMS, and now a life-saving firefighter at the Portage Fire Department, Johnson has seen both the good and the bad that comes along with the profession.
“I’ve taken calls of elderly people who have fallen and can’t get up, ducklings in sewer grates, cats in trees, false fire-alarms,” he said. But it’s the scarier events that get his heart beating.
“I can feel that fight, flight, or freeze sensation when I’m entering a dangerous situation,” he said. “During those times, when that emotion takes over, the best thing to do is take a deep breath, suck it up, address the situation, and just do something.”
While running headfirst into fires isn’t something most people can relate to, some of his other passions are pretty relatable. Johnson spends his time away from the station chasing after his five kids and trying to keep in shape. Whether its by running in the mornings, going to the YMCA, or working out at home, Johnson recognizes that it’s important to stay fit for his job and remain disciplined.
With a schedule that requires every third day at the fire station, and given the very nature of the job, anything can happen. Yet, for the majority of the time, Johnson is surrounded by his fellow firefighters.
“A third of my year is spent with these guys, so they feel like a family,” Johnson said. “We work as a team first and foremost, and we wait to eat breakfast until everyone is back at the station.”
The environment at the Portage Fire Department is intense and busy. Everyone shows up early, does routine daily checks, and undergoes training throughout the week, which includes practicing EMS training to keep their skills sharp.
When Johnson reflects on his life, he feels gratitude towards his entire family, his mother and wife in particular for their support, and the family of firefighters that surrounds him. The transition from lifeguard training in high school, to EMS training as a young main, to the current ongoing firefighting training, felt like a natural progression. Johnson said his four-year career at the Portage Fire Department fills him with gratitude and respect.
With an overall number of 18 years in emergency services across the Northwest Indiana region, Johnson feels that he has the most pride and respect working in the Portage area. He received the job offer from the fire department while he was mowing his lawn four years ago and dropped everything to go and sign the official papers.
“I am grateful to be working here surrounded by great guys and a great department. It’s almost like winning the lottery.”