Chase Swisher gripped the end of the 16-foot-long fire hose and waited for the signal.
With the fire engine humming, a rush of water snaked its way through the hose and burst out in a straight, misty line.
“Pretty cool, huh?” asked firefighter Chad Walker, who accompanied Chase all day and helped him hold the hose. “That’s a big garden hose, huh?”
Chase — donning firefighter gear specially fitted for him, including a bright, yellow helmet with his name on it — cracked a smile that made everyone at University Place Fire remember why they do their jobs.
Spraying the fire hose was the culmination of what undoubtedly will be a day that Chase, his family and the fire department won’t soon forget.
The 8-year-old from Tumwater and patient at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma has dreamed of being a firefighter for years. The hospital, where Chase is receiving treatments for a brain tumor, initially worked with the fire district to set up a tour.
When the fire district heard the request, they wanted to to give Chase more than a tour. The guild for the department’s support staff, along with the volunteer and firefighter guilds, donated money and effort to make Chase an honorary firefighter.
“We all were so looking forward to today,” said Lt. Michelle Johnson. “It’s been the buzz around the station.”
He was officially sworn in as a firefighter earlier today. From the start, he got to see things anyone, not just a kid, who aspires to be a firefighter dreams about.
With the help of Walker, Chase got to sit and ride in a fire engine, wearing a headset to communicate with the other firefighters in the cabin. He got to hold the Jaws of Life, or “big pair of giant scissors,” as Walker called them.
And of course, he sprayed the hose and the engine’s deck gun, sending water into the air at about 90 pounds per square inch.
His mother, Judy Swisher, said she didn’t tell her son about any of the plans prior to today, which may explain his initial appearance of petrification at the oath ceremony.
However, as the day progressed, and Chase began to realize that everything he saw and touched was just plain cool, his smiles began to crack more and more.
“This is the whole reason I joined the service,” said Walker, a father of three.
Afterward, Chase was treated to a lunch of barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies, Jello (his favorite) and soda. While munching, I asked him what was his favorite part of the day.
“All of it,” he said.
Added his mother: “He’s not going to stop talking about this for months.”