For nearly 1,600 San Antonio firefighters and paramedics, a city with more than 1.3 million people brings its fair share of emergencies. Although many jobs end at 5:00 p.m., a firefighter's job can last an entire day.
"Our signs are open 24 hours," San Antonio firefighter Michael Verduzco said. "It can be nine in the evening, and we can be as busy as you are in the normal 8-5 job."
On average, the San Antonio Fire Department and EMS are dispatched to 600 calls every day. The majority of those emergency calls have nothing to do with fire.
"Eighty percent of our calls are medical," Verduzco said. "They can range from a lift assist or a person that needs assistance to get up to the cardiac arrest or an MVC (Motor Vehicle Collision) that needs to be extricated out of the vehicle."
And while many residents are sound asleep, the San Antonio Fire Department always remains open.
"I didn't realize at nighttime how often the fire engines and the EMS crews are going out of the station," firefighter and paramedic Jake Madrid said. "Overnight, we see more of the different types of calls as far as shootings, stabbings, and it's just a different clientele at night time compared to daytime."
During the course of a day, week, month, or even a year, some emergencies hit closer to home than others.
"Maybe the patient is close to my age, and it kind of makes me appreciate what I have going. Just seeing some individuals when they're at their worst, and we're able to help them," Verduzco explained.
Unfortunately, not all days are good ones for members of SAFD, but it's the good days that make the job worth while.
"If you get to help somebody out and see the physical change right in front of you, that's very fulfilling," Madrid said.
First responders in the San Antonio Fire Department range in age from early 20s to early 60s. Many of the men and women are at different points of their lives, but all have family that deal with their loved one working this unique job every day.
"My wife knew from day one that I wanted to do something different," Verduzco says. "She does know the inherent hazards of my job. I do make a point to at least text her and let her know that I'm safe."
Every time the sun begins to rise on a new day, the men and women of SAFD work to come home safely, and keep everyone in San Antonio safe as well.
"It's customer service," Verduzco said. "That's what we do."