After nearly 27 years of service, B-Shift Capt. Chris Allman will retire from the Seymour Fire Department.
Allman began his career in January 1994 after previously working in construction. He was not happy with the pay and joined the fire department after a few friends of his became firefighters and recommended he join them.
Allman said like many children, he had aspirations of one day becoming a firefighter.
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“I think every kid has that dream of being a fireman. Mine was always being a fireman or a construction worker. I always thought they kind of went hand in hand,” he said.
Besides his friends on the force, Allman said he knew many of the firemen because they would deliver beer for Lester Beverages, his mother’s place of employment in the 1970s and 1980s, during their off time.
This combined with the knowledge and experience he gained while working in construction made the transition simple for Allman.
“I had knowledge of chainsaws, equipment, plumbing, electrical, so it just made the transition easy for me,” he said.
During the early months of Allman’s career, he said he had two very formative experiences.
The first came about a month after he was hired when he said he was traveling to a fire with another more experienced fireman.
While other firemen were on the roof attempting to put out the fire, Allman and the more experience firefighter went inside to begin to put out the fire in there. While doing this, Allman noticed his partner was not going very far into the building before stepping out. He said they would repeatedly step forward before stepping back again.
Allman said he didn’t quite understand why he was so hesitant to go in further at the time but ultimately trusted that because the other fireman was more experienced, he was doing what was best.
”I would have followed him anywhere in there. I trusted him with my life,” Allman said.
He discussed it with the other firemen later on, who explained to him he could not trust Allman to go in further with him because of his lack of experience.
”He said, ‘It wasn’t personal, but you’ve only been here for a couple weeks. I’ve known you. I just didn’t trust going in that far with you,’” Allman said he was told by the more experienced fireman.
Allman said this helped him to understand later on the responsibility of being a mentor and establishing trust with younger firefighters.
”I finally realized later in my career what it meant to take a new guy into a fire and that responsibility on him to take me in there,” he said. “He felt responsible for me, and in the future, I felt responsible for the guys I’d take in. It’s just building that trust and knowing they’re going to be right with you.”
The next came just a few weeks later when Allman and the department were responding to an attic fire.
“I was scared to death,” he said.
Allman said while the fire was being put out, he was able to go inside and begin to remove pictures from the walls of the home and gather other valuables and get them out on the lawn. While the home was left damaged by the fire, many of the homeowner’s personal belongings were saved.
The homeowner was incredibly thankful for what they had done. Allman said seeing how grateful this woman was for what they had done helped him to understand the importance of his work, something he took upon himself to instill in future firefighters.
“After it was said and done, the lady came up and she gave us all a hug and was telling us how much she appreciated what we did, and that’s what we do,” he said. “That was what my career meant to me. You go in and you try your best to save that property, and I took that to heart. It didn’t matter who that was or what was burning.
“That was someone’s stuff, and you just went in and tried your best. I walked into that house after it was out and the walls were black and everything was black inside that house and it was all ruined, and she was so thankful for everything that we did. I tried to instill that in guys later in my career any time new guys came in.”
Allman would carry that principle with him for the remainder of his career.
“That’s kind of how my career was. I gave everything 100%. When there was a fire or a Jaws (of Life) run or anything, I gave it 100% for as long as I could to get the job done,” he said.
Allman’s career as a firefighter was cut short after he suffered a back injury on the job. He was attempting to breach a door on a call when the steps he was standing on collapsed under him, causing him to fall onto his oxygen tank. Allman broke his back during the incident, which ultimately forced him to retire.
“Several years ago, I went and it just kept getting worse,” he said. “A year ago this past March, I had back surgery, and I just couldn’t pass the minimum requirements to return as a firefighter. It was devastating.”
Despite being forced to retire, Allman is thankful for the time he was able to serve.
“I grew up in this community, and I love Seymour,” he said. “I love being a firefighter. I’d still be doing it if I could. I mean, I loved it. I loved helping people. I loved the fact that the people were thankful after we showed up. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot and I loved every minute of it. It has been a great job.”
As for what’s next for Allman, he plans to keep busy with projects and enjoy outdoor activities with his wife.
“Well, I got my wife into fishing, so we’re definitely going to do a bit more fishing,” he said. “I’ve been a hunter. I’m going to try to hunt a bit more. I’m going to still try to work. I’ll still find stuff to do to keep myself busy.
“I still enjoy aspects of construction work and running equipment, so I’ll still do that whenever somebody needs my help somewhere, but my back does limit me from doing some of the things that I love doing. I’m not a sit-around type guy, so I’ll stay busy.”