Fire chief loves job |

Fire chief loves job

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

Whenever Grahame Hilliard Ross arrives at a fire, he knows what to expect: nothing.

“The fire directs you where to go,” said Ross, the 32-year-old chief of the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department. “You’ve got to be thinking constantly.”

An example is the time the force was called to a structure fire in Mound House.

“Fire was rolling off the ceiling and out the hallway,” Ross recalled.

When he crouched, the temperature was about 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher, it reached 1,000 degrees.

“I remember fire rolling on top of me and feeling the heat on my forehead,” he said. “I was thinking ‘I have to get down lower.'”

At any moment, a fire can become dangerous, even deadly. But that doesn’t deter Ross.

“There’s no other reason I’d wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning. I really get a rush out of going into fires,” he said. “You can say it’s better than the best drug. It’s better than going faster than 200 mph in any car. It’s the greatest adrenaline rush.”

A Silver City native, Ross graduated from Dayton High School in 1988. A couple of years later, he started to associate with volunteer firefighters.

“They were a generation ahead of us, but they were fun to hang out with. There’s a camaraderie there, a bonding.”

He found the same brotherhood when he finally joined the department in 1991. He took a leave of absence in 1997 to pursue career goals in Elko then in California. He rejoined the force last year.

“I’ve gotten in potentially life-threatening situations, and there’s no one I’d rather be with,” he said. “I trust my life with them.”

While Ross was growing up, his parents owned a bar. He was exposed at a young age to alcohol and drugs and became addicted.

“I had some good times, but I had more bad times,” he said. “I can’t really say it was fun while it lasted. “

In 1997, he became clean and sober — and hasn’t looked back.

He’s living in Silver City with his wife of two years, Sara, 21, and working in geographic information systems at Carson City’s Gnomon Inc.

“I’m eternally grateful. I’m grateful for the religion I found. I’m grateful for the this wonderful woman I met,” he said. “It’s all because of God working in my life.”

Ross dedicates about four hours per week to his department of 16 volunteers, about six of whom are active.

Between them, they have nearly 40 years of experience.

“It’s really a group effort,” he said. “I couldn’t do it myself.”

Ross said serving the community also makes it a worthwhile endeavor.

“It’s an invaluable part of the community. If I don’t do it, who’s going to?”