Davon McRae’s family tree is filled honorable men — heroes who have given all in service to their communities.
Like his firefighter father, who succumbed to a heart attack in the line of duty, McRae decided a life of service is his calling.
Lt. Kevin McRae, 44, died in 2015 — two years later — the younger McRae begins life as a firefighter in the same firehouse his dad had been assigned to, at New Jersey Avenue and N Street NW.
McRae understands the risks — his father was the 100th D.C. firefighter to die in the line of duty. His cousin, James McRae III, was the 99th to die, in 2007.
The Washington Post reports Davon McRae graduated with 20 others from the cadet program Friday, on the 10th anniversary of his cousin’s death, and his new boss says working in his father’s station is a privilege for the young man.
“Looking at it from the outside, you could say this is extremely hard to pass by all these memorials and these pictures” of his dad, Lt. Mark Trace, a 13-year veteran who runs the Engine 6 crew tells The Washington Post. “But from a fireman’s standpoint, it’s the best thing in the world to work where your father worked. That’s a privilege that a lot of people don’t get.”
The Washington Post reports that in many ways, McRae’s first day Monday was a homecoming because he knows many of the firefighters through frequent visits to the station while he attended Dunbar High School across the street. But as a “probie” McRae still has to prove himself. On his first day on the job, he was drilled on procedure, razzed for grabbing seconds at lunch, tasked with filling out the daily journal of calls and assigned to wash the dinner dishes.
When the lieutenant lined up the new firefighters during their first 24-hour shift, The Washington Post reports he made a point of telling McRae there’s work to be done, and he’ll be expected to meet if not exceed the standard.
“You’re not going to be treated any different,” Trace told the 20-year-old McRae.
“You’re going to be treated the same as every probationary that walks through the door. There will be no special favors. You’re probably going to have it worse than everyone else, you know that?”
“Yes, sir,” McRae answered.
McRae tells The Washington Post his career path is his decision — even though others urged him to think twice about being a firefighter.
McRae describes the thought process saying, “Seeing my father go down doing something he loved” is what guided his career choice. His closest relatives urged him to think hard about it. “Do what you want to do. Don’t feel you’ve got shoes to fill,” he said they told him. He assured them, “I’m going to be me.”
Engine 6 “feels like home,” McRae tells The Washington Post. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
He tells The Washington Post growing up his father passed along a lot of valuable information, and that he felt he’d have a leg up going into the fire academy.
“I thought I was going to become some sort of super-firefighter,” he said.
Then — reality set in for the probie.
The Washington Post reports McRae quickly learned there is more to firefighting than rushing into flames with a hose. He learned engines carry water and trucks carry ladders and axes for rescues. He learned there are different-diameter hose nozzles, different-length hoses and different-size picks. He learned how to treat patients injured in car crashes, suffering heart attacks or overdosing on drugs.
After the yearlong journey at the academy, McRae tells The Washington Post, “I respect the job a whole lot more.”
Trace tells The Washington Post it looks like McRae has a bright future in fire service, and that he wants him not to feel compelled to fill his father’s shoes.
“There’s no need for him to think he needs to be someone else,” Trace tells The Washington Post. “He’s Davon. That’s who he needs to be, and that’s what we need.”
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