Battalion Chief Mike Dorsey, a 23-year veteran with the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue, has supervised many young firefighters in his time. Most were nice guys, he says.
Now, one of those rookies follows him to his Ellicott City home each day and makes jokes about him. Chief Dorsey, 46, isn't bothered, though -- it's his son, Tim Dorsey, 23, one of the latest recruits from the county fire department's academy class.
"This is a great job," said the younger Mr. Dorsey. "It's good helping the public. It gives you a rush and makes you feel good about yourself."
The father and son are brothers on the force, working out of Fire Station 11, which opened in April in the 11200 block of Scaggsville Road.
The station, which has a staff of about 20, is part of a public safety complex that includes the Southern District Police Station, created to provide better service for the county's southern area.
"He didn't give me any indication he'd do it, but I'm proud of him," Chief Dorsey said of his son's becoming a firefighter. "It caught me by surprise. Most of his time was spent in sports."
The younger Mr. Dorsey said his father's work at the Ellicott City fire station when he was younger helped spark his interest in the profession. There, he played with two Dalmatians, Yogi and J.R.
He learned firefighter skills while in the Navy from 1988 to 1992. While working communications, he was assigned the "damage control" of fires and on-deck hazards.
When he got out of the Navy, he took two semesters of classes at Howard Community College, then entered the most recent training academy, and graduated in March.
As a firefighter, he works a 24-hour shift, from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m., about three times a week, sleeping at the station during that shift and eating meals there. He gets 48 hours off after each shift.
Chief Dorsey, who lives in Ellicott City with his wife, Marsha, and family, oversees 60 fire personnel in nine stations in the county. He keeps in touch with most activity on the scanner hooked to his belt.
Though he is confident that his son can handle the job, he sometimes has worried about his son's safety in the five months since the younger man began working for the fire department full time.
"If I hear something from this station, I may perk up a little more, especially in the first year when he's getting his feet wet for the first time and is seeing different things," said Chief Dorsey, who grew up in West Friendship and, like son, started his firefighting career at age 22.
Despite the stress of the job, both men say they try to maintain a relaxed home atmosphere, where they can function like an ordinary family. "We have a regular father-son relationship," said the younger Mr. Dorsey.
That isn't always possible at work, however. Yesterday, as the younger Mr. Dorsey stood chatting at the fire station, the alarm sounded. A woman had driven to the station with breathing problems en route to Howard County General Hospital.
Mr. Dorsey snapped on rubber gloves and helped other fire and rescue personnel escort the woman inside an ambulance. He also helped to evaluate her condition, hook up an oxygen unit and prepare an intravenous unit, while a medical technician inserted a needle.
Afterward, the young firefighter returned with a smile.
"I'm staying here; this is for me," he said. "I'm not a suit, if you know what I mean."