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Jose Carbajal: Hero Spotlight Thumbnail

Jose Carbajal: Hero Spotlight

First Responder Hero Spotlight

Today, we’re continuing our Hero Spotlight series where we highlight incredible individuals making a difference in their communities as first-responders. We’re lucky enough to have Jose Carbajal as our featured hero this week.

Can you introduce yourself? Where do you work and what do you do there?

“My name is Jose Carbajal,” the 39-year-old said. “I’ve been with the Racine Fire Department for over fifteen years. I was hired on March 12, 2007.” Carbajal, a Racine native who currently resides in Muskego with his newlywed wife, is the Driver/Operator of Engine 1 in the heart of downtown Racine. “We handle fire suppression, fire prevention, and EMS calls throughout the city.”

“I actually worked in the private industry for a little while.” Carbajal reflected on his prior work experience before becoming a firefighter. He had gone to UW LaCrosse and earned a business degree. “In my job, I bought and sold freight. At the same time, I was going to school at night to become an EMT and Firefighter.” 

What inspired you to begin working in this field?

“I always knew I wanted to be a firefighter. My stepdad was one [firefighter] for many years in Milwaukee.” Carbajal’s father was a police officer and implored him to go to the other side of public service. “I originally wanted to go that route [police officer], he recommended I become a firefighter instead.”

What has been the most memorable moment on the job for you?

“Unfortunately, a lot of things you remember from the job are some very catastrophic things,” he thought aloud.

Speaking on his experiences with the Racine Fire Department he said, “One of the most positive, memorable moments for me is feeling like I finally got it.” Every day is a learning experience at the firehouse. “The job evolves with science, tech, and how we advance in the world. It will never be something you can fully grasp. For years, I knew I was capable, but the confidence wasn’t always there. Now, I go to work and feel like I can be a leader.” The fifteen-year veteran has been through many real-life incidents, scenarios, and trainings that have prepared him to be a leader amongst the ranks of his peers.

“It’s hard to put it to a specific moment but making it as a leader and building that confidence to be able to go into work and know that I can face any challenge and lead my team through it, is incredible.”

How do you spend your time when you're not working?

“I’m very active in the union,” seven years as the president and ten years overall on the union executive board. He represents one of the oldest unions in the city of Racine. “I’m the union president for Local 321 (Cities of Racine and Burlington Fire Departments) representing 130 people. Outside of that, I’m a state rep on the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin (PFFW) board.” Additionally, he works for the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) as a service rep. “There, I help with different aspects such as putting policies in place for COVID.”

Life outside of the department isn’t all related to the fire service. “I enjoy spending time with my wife. We enjoy going on long walks with the dog. I have a boat at McKinley Marina that we take up and down the river. This is the first year I could clear every bridge,” he stated in reference to the high water levels the Milwaukee River has experienced in recent years.

What's one thing you wish the general population knew about your job?

“I think people should know that it’s a highly technical, very difficult position.” The multitude of disciplines within firefighting make for a challenging and dynamic career. On any given day a firefighter can deal with; structure fires, car fires, overdoses, vehicle crashes, dive rescues, hazardous material incidents, and in Racine, the occasional small airplane crash to name a few things. “Firefighters want to be there because they want to help someone — they’re not in this role because they couldn’t do something else.”

“The people in our field are very intelligent and choose to help people because it’s what they care about. There aren’t many firefighters who are in it for the wrong reasons because they get weeded out quickly. People want to be a firefighter to help the public. When something goes wrong, the fire department will be the ones fixing whatever the ‘fire’ is.”

“The people there are highly educated, super dedicated, and want to help. It’s the best job in the world — we get to go to work, get ready, learn, and train for really bad situations. There’s no one else we can call if it’s not us. It’s a lot of stress, but we make a lot of fun out of it to help people.” The comradery in the firehouse is second to none when it comes to brother/sisterhood.

Jose is currently earning his paramedic license to help better serve his community. In the summer of this year, he will advance from being a Firefighter/EMT to being a Firefighter/Paramedic. This is another instance of how after fifteen years, the learning opportunities never end, and the job of protecting the community changes for the better.

Jose Carbajal and his crew after working a fire.

Anew Advisors Supports First Responders

Thanks to Jose for sharing his incredible story! Anew Advisors is dedicated to supporting first responders in our local Milwaukee community and beyond. Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see more of our Hero Spotlights!

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