BOCA RATON, Fla. Firefighter and paramedic Shaun Fix said it takes a "bizarre mentality" to want stay in his field.
"While everyone else is walking away going, 'ew,' we're walking right into it," he said.
The 44-year-old Emergency Medical Services Captain at Boca Raton Fire-Rescue was recently nominated for an All-Star Award by the television show America's Most Wanted. The award is for a first responder who goes above and beyond to keep his or her community safe.
Fix remembers getting the phone call from someone with the TV show.
"At first I thought it was a joke," Fix said. "But it was really nice to be nominated."
Although Fix didn't make it into the group of eight finalists, he wasn't disappointed. He said he never stood a chance at winning because he wasn't nominated for a heroic act.
"I didn't save four babies from a burning building or get shot in the face," he said.
Fix, who divides his time between a home in Port St. Lucie and one in Boca, said his job as an EMS captain involves responding to emergency calls one day, and then looking at reports from firefighters/paramedics the next day and sending back constructive notes. He works two 24-hour shifts during the week.
He also puts in about 50 hours each week at his company, Emergency Medical Consultants, Inc., which he founded in 1988. The staff of the Port St. Lucie-based company consists of physicians, nurses and paramedics who teach others in the medical field. Courses emphasize emergency care and are designed to fulfill continuing education requirements.
To add to his busy schedule, Fix teaches in the EMS Department at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce.
"Eighty hours of work is a short week," he said.
Between his various jobs, Fix said he puts about 30,000 miles on his car each year, and he recently became an elite member of American Airlines. But Fix doesn't complain.
"I love to travel," he said. He said the "coolest" place he has traveled to is South Africa. He went there in 2000 with three other Boca Fire-Rescue paramedics to compete in emergency medicine.
"They have real life scenarios with actors and make-up, and then we have to manage those cases," he said.
Boca Fire-Rescue was the only U.S. team there. Fix said Boca was invited because it had won a number of past U.S. competitions. The following year, Fix returned to South Africa, but this time with his company, teaching emergency medicine to different hospitals.
Although Fix said he knew he wanted to become a firefighter at a very young age, he had a few detours on his career path. Beginning in high school in his hometown of Miami, Fix was trained by Ringling Brothers to become a clown. His grandfather did public relations for the Miami-Dade County Fair and introduced Fix to one of the clowns there. Fix was hooked.
"I can juggle, eat fire, do magic," he said.
The clown training hasn't gone to waste as a firefighter, Fix said. He often finds himself making balloon animals for kids in emergency situations, and he said that working as a clown provided him with useful communication skills.
After his circus stint, Fix attended the University of Florida, where he was hoping to become a baseball star, but he found that he was just an average college player. At the end of his sophomore year, he left school and pursued his firefighting dream at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.
Despite Fix's busy work schedule, he finds time to give back. He has volunteered for years with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Heart Association and Toys for Tots. On a more local level, he has designed a program called "Project Kid Keeper" that teaches parents home safety and CPR in order to better protect their children. Fix offers the free program at various hospitals, including Boca Raton Community Hospital.
"You've got to find something you like to do," Fix said. "If you don't like it, change it."
What is the most unusual thing you own?
"My clown collection." He keeps clown pictures, marionettes and statues in a display case at home.
What is your favorite movie?
The Shawshank Redemption.