Under the Helmet series shows the fire department in another light

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, March 21, 2023

SALISBURY — Just because someone has a serious job, it doesn’t mean they act serious all the time. Thanks to the Salisbury Fire Department’s Under the Helmet video series, people get to see another side of local firefighters.

Under the Helmet is a series of videos the department posts online that profiles an individual firefighter so people can get to know them on a more personal level.

“We have an exceptional team here and they’re passionate, they’re compassionate, they care about the city, and we wanted the citizens to not only see these people driving their trucks all around the city, but see the people in the seats and see what drives their passion to do what they do,” Salisbury Fire Management Analyst Madison McCorkle said.

McCorkle and Capt. Wesley Jackson, who provides an introduction for each video, worked to come up with this idea around eight months ago. McCorkle has a degree in photography from Appalachian State University and saw an opportunity to make a difference for the department in this unique way.

“There was somewhat of a need for revamping our social media, making it a little bit more modern,” McCorkle said.

Each video features a firefighter sharing some details about their background: who they are, what they like to do for fun and why they chose to work for the fire department. To go along with that, it shows them at the station and out in the field working. Each firefighter volunteers to be a part of the videos or Jackson chooses them or they are nominated by others. Most of the footage is shot in a few shifts while the editing process takes a few hours to complete.

With many of the firefighters living in Salisbury and Rowan County, finding ways to relate to them helps bring everyone closer together.

“You’re going to see these guys, you’re going to see them out and about, you’re going to see your neighbor. Everybody wants to get to know their neighbor and that’s really where the videos come in,” Jackson said.

Most importantly, having people see another side to the firefighters makes them more down to earth compared to how intimidating their job can be.

“Anytime you see these guys on a call, they’re usually pretty focused, straightforward. And it might be a different perception than how they are when they’re not focused on calls. Getting to see them in their element, but also they have fun. They’re goofballs. We have one guy in here who sings in the morning,” McCorkle said.

The series is vital for getting multiple generations interested in the department and that has a positive impact that goes beyond putting out fires.

“Retirees love watching it and that’s a big thing because you don’t want to lose your connection to your retirees. Recruiting wise, we get applicants who watch the videos. As everybody knows, the younger your hiring base grows, the more social media based your hiring pool is,” Jackson said.

In the future, McCorkle would like to start a YouTube channel so they can do longer videos and follow firefighters throughout their day. They are currently working on a video on a rookie firefighter. The Under the Helmet series has already succeeded by giving firefighters a way to show a side of themselves that they would not normally get to share.

“Every firefighter has a different path that lead them here and I think it’s cool for everybody to see that,” McCorkle said.