In any 90-minute class block, at least one student will usually leave the room at some point. The reasons are various and often mundane: A student might be going to use the bathroom; he might be going to blow his nose; he might be going to check his email.

When sophomore Ian Yaffe gets up and hurries out of class, he might be going to fight a fire.

While many students' idea of "student employment" means washing dishes in a dining hall or manning the counter at the Cafe a few nights per week, Yaffe and senior Anthony Regis have a different kind of job: They're firefighters.

"Call" firefighters, that is. That means pretty much exactly what it sounds like: They are always on call. Each wears a pager, issued by their respective departments?Regis works for Brunswick Fire and Rescue (BKFD), and Yaffe works for the Topsham Fire Department (TFD). The pager works like a one-way radio. When there is a call, it vibrates and the dispatcher's voice crackles the nature and location of the call.

"It's cool that when I hear sirens, I know where they're going and what they're going for," says Regis.

Although Yaffe and Regis are not required to respond to every call?Regis, unlike Yaffe, turns his pager off in class (then checks it immediately after class adjourns), while Yaffe keeps his on low volume?they generally respond whenever they can. While Yaffe sometimes opts not to respond to calls during class, he has left class three times this year, usually for structure fires, when the chief has made an "all hands" call.

"Sometimes you know immediately [whether the call is urgent]," he says. "Sometimes it's a judgment call."

Regis estimates that of the 100-plus calls BKFD receives per week, he'll respond to five or six. At the very least, he tries to make all calls that come from the Bowdoin campus.

Yaffe claims that irking professors or falling behind in class material because of his unusual extracurricular duty "has not been an issue" so far during his almost three semesters as a student-firefighter at Bowdoin.

"Generally, teachers understand what needs to be done," he says, adding, "I probably miss less class than some other people."

The TFD, which is comprised exclusively of call firefighters like Yaffe, requires that every responding firefighter report to the station first before responding to a call. In order to allow him to respond to calls quickly when he is on campus, Yaffe's boss made a special parking arrangement for him with Bowdoin Security. Yaffe parks in the Coffin Street parking lot, which is usually reserved for seniors and faculty.

Regis also parks his truck in the Coffin lot, though he acquired the space through the parking lottery. As a member of the BKFD's call contingent (it also employs full-time firefighters), Regis has struggled unsuccessfully to acquire special dispensation to park in convenient lots since he began his job as a firefighter at the end of his first year at Bowdoin.

'The rescue aspect'

Ironically, it was an organization where he learned how to start fires that led to Regis's interest in fighting them. The senior's road to the BKFD began back in his hometown of Topsfield, Massachussetts, where he was a Cub Scout. When he graduated from Cub Scouts, Regis made the decision to continue on to Boy Scouts, noting that the skills and values he was learning in the Scout program?character-building, physical fitness, and outdoorsmanship?appealed to him.

As he continued to rise in the Boy Scouts, Regis saw a handful of his older friends?kids he looked up to?join the "Explorer's Post," a junior firefighters' program. He followed suit. Eventually, he became trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and worked during the summer for a private ambulance company that lent its services to the local fire and rescue department in Topsfield.

As an EMT, Regis is "fascinated with the rescue aspect" of his job. He says that with the BKFD, the majority of calls regard medical emergencies. Everyone in the department is "at least an EMT," and two paramedics work each shift.

Last year, Regis had his first experience with what in BKFD jargon is known as a "code": a cardiac arrest call. As he was helping to clear Chamberlain Hall after a 7 a.m. false fire alarm, he got a call regarding a local elderly man who was exhibiting agonal respirations; a breathing pattern people often experience shortly before death. Regis hopped on the engine that was sent from Chamberlain to the man's home. When they arrived, he had no heartbeat.

En route to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, Regis and two other EMTs worked together to try to resuscitate the man. Regis did chest compressions, while another ventilated the man's lungs with a bag-valve mask, and the third administered intravenous lines of saline and epinephrine. Once they arrived at the hospital, Regis continued the chest compressions in the Emergency Room until finally, the ER doctor told him to stop. The man was not going to be resuscitated.

Though the outcome was tragic, Regis points to this call as one of the most memorable of his young career because it exemplified the teamwork and application of learned skills that his superiors had emphasized throughout his training.

"Despite the circumstances, I found it exciting," he says. "Everyone was working as a team, and everyone knew what needed to be done."

At other times, Regis has seen his life as a student come into conflict with his duties as a firefighter. In October of his sophomore year, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, and Bowdoin students celebrated by making a bonfire on the Brunswick Apartment quad. When the exulting students began chucking furniture into the blaze, Security summoned the BKFD to extinguish it. Regis took the call and was the first on the scene, at which point his emotions pulled him in two directions.

"In one sense you want to put the fire out, and in another you want to celebrate with your friends," he says.

Regis ended up settling on both, helping his colleagues put out the bonfire and then sticking around afterwards to hang out with his friends.

'Just something you do'

Yaffe joined the fire department in his hometown of Chilmark, Massachussetts, as soon as he turned 18 and was legally allowed to do so. Like Regis, he does not come from a family of firefighters. Asked why he was so eager to sign up, Yaffe pauses, struggling with how to properly convey his call to duty before settling on:

"It's just something you do."

"I just figured I would want someone to come help me if I needed help," he continues.

Yaffe opted for the Topsham department over its Brunswick counterpart after conferring with Andrew Gestrich '06, who, while he was a student, worked for two years at the BKFD before transferring to the TFD. Yaffe says that he felt he could be involved at a higher level with the TPD because unlike the BKFD, it does not have a staff of full-time firefighters.

"It was a complicated decision, but I think I made the right call," he says.

To make it easier for him to respond to calls when he is not in class, Yaffe lives in an apartment in Topsham instead of on-campus housing.

Though he has been involved in combating "several" structural fires and has been inside a number of burning buildings, Yaffe says that he usually only considers himself in danger in retrospect. He claims never to have feared for his life during a call, and "couldn't imagine" circumstances under which he would disobey an order out of fear for his own well-being.

"I rely on my officers and chief officers to make the calls," he says. "There's a very high level of trust."

Ken Brilliant, chief of the TFD, describes Yaffe as "very active and ambitious," citing the 233 hours of service the sophomore completed in order to achieve "Firefighter II" certification. Firefighter II is the highest level of qualification for firefighters in the state of Maine.

Brilliant also mentions how useful Yaffe has been to the exclusively call TFD force because of the flexibility of his daytime schedule.

"He's able to respond more freely during the day, whereas other guys who are working can't," he says.

Yaffe says that he would like to see more Bowdoin students become firefighters, saying that while prior training is useful, the only real requirement is that a person be capable of doing the sorts of things that the job would ask of him.

"Anybody here can do it," he says.

On duty

As he sits in a dorm room patiently fielding the Orient's questions, Regis's red pager begins to vibrate in his pocket. The radio speaker crackles to life.

"All units, report of a garage fire at 22 Church Street," says a voice through the static.

Regis leaps up and politely excuses himself from the room, leaving his backpack behind. He hustles to his Nissan truck in the Coffin lot. His gear is already in the backseat. Regis puts his department-issued emergency light on the dashboard and pulls out of the lot in the direction of the call.

He arrives at the same time as the BKFD engine and immediately reports to his chief to submit his "accountability card"?a procedure designed to keep track of who is at what fire?and to receive instructions.

It turns out not to be a big deal: some smoke coming out of a fluorescent light fixture in the garage. Regis helps another firefighter unplug the light, remove it, and take it outside.

Still, "we treat every call like it's the most serious call it could be," says Regis. He added that despite frequent and relatively mundane calls such as false fire alarms, he has no trouble getting his adrenaline pumping when responding to a call.

"You have to prepare," he says.

Regis says that the most rewarding part of the job is both making people more secure and making them feel more secure.

"You get a joy from helping others," he says. "And often even your presence there can help make things better."

"When you call the fire department, they're going to come," agrees Yaffe. "That's what they do."