WINTER GARDEN – Firefighter Jason Schneider grew fell in love with the idea of donning a red uniform ever since he got the chance to observe firefighters at work during a ride-along.
Schneider, a Clermont resident, now has been a firefighter for 16 years and has worked for both Brevard, Broward and Orange County Fire Rescue. He currently works as a fire engineer for the Winter Garden Fire Department and is the president of the local union that represents Winter Garden firefighters.
Given the responsibilities involved in his position as union president and the union’s own purpose to promote firefighters’ rights, Schneider also leaped at the chance to attend a six-day political training academy hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in Maryland.
Schneider was among 50 selected for a seat in the training course, which is designed to enhance one’s political knowledge regarding the process of running for elected office, as well how to effectively lead a campaign.
“It was an honor to be selected,” Schneider said. “I didn’t think I was going to be selected, but it was such a great opportunity. It’s a long class over the course of six days where you start very early in the morning and sometimes we weren’t done until two in the morning.”
The lack of sleep was a minor inconvenience for Schneider, who believes the course provided him with valuable insight and knowledge. Participants of the intensive course were given instruction on a variety of campaign topics, and given simulation exercises taught by individuals with ample campaign experience, along with group workshops that trained students about campaign planning, fundraising, polling, budgeting and even social media tools to help spread awareness.
“At the end of the day, politics is difficult. And you know I never realized how difficult politics really is and how challenging it is until (the union was) organized and we became a local (union), and I was voted in as the president and I started getting more and more involved in politics.”
But Schneider emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics, pointing out the fact that firefighters need more local and state support to protect firefighters’ health.
Firefighters are predisposed to various different cancers due to the high concentrations of carcinogens released from burning furniture in buildings and homes, which are often petroleum-based products. In fact, there is currently and effort to pass state legislation, commonly known as the cancer presumption bill, to help firefighters battling cancer presumably developed in the line of duty.
Despite the health risks, long 24-hour shifts, and significant amount of time spent away from his family, Schneider loves being a firefighter and repeatedly noted how grateful he is for the opportunity to help people and enjoys the camaraderie with his fellow coworkers.
“It’s the best job in the world,” he said. “I don’t think it’s for everybody, you know, there’s a lot of people that get into these jobs and then they realize it’s not for them, but for everyone that stays, it’s the most rewarding thing – the most rewarding career I could ever think of. I don’t think I could do anything else.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]