Grant Parker: Firefighter, Educator and Two-Wheeled Advocate
Grant Parker is what one would call enthusiastic. He loves being a firefighter. He loves being a bike rider. And he loves helping anyone who is interested in either of these things. He knows the physical and mental strains of being a firefighter and he believes biking is a great way to offset some of these stresses. He lives to serve others, whether that is his fellow firefighters or the school children in his community of Merced. We catch up with him to find out what an average day looks like for Grant Parker.
So your a firefighter. Every little person wants to be a policeman or a firefighter or an astronaut. Did you always want to be a firefighter?
In high school my thought pattern was something like this…. Get out of High School and get my degree in Fire Science, then attend the Fire Academy. When I get out I will start testing to become a firefighter, while testing I will get an ambulance job. If after a year it isn’t working out I will reassess. When my Mom remarried, it was to a firefighter, so I was fortunate to have the great opportunities that come along with that as I grew up. By that I mean sliding down the fire pole at Newport Fire Station 3 until I was told to stop…. JK. Seriously though being around the brotherhood that is the fire service really meant a lot and it gave me a drive to get a job. Well I got out of college and the fire academy and started working on an ambulance. Just 6 months of that and I received a job offer for the City of Merced Fire Department and moved far away from home and everything I knew. The new brotherhood and eventually meeting my wife made it the right choice by far.
What does a day in the life of Grant look like?
A third of the life of a firefighter is spent at the fire station to make it possible to live the other 2/3 of our lives. Let's start with the 2/3. I have the most amazing wife and I am blessed beyond measure with two crazy boys of eight and ten years old. A normal day at home looks like this. Up in the morning and the wife is off to work. I spend the time to get the boys ready and take them to school. The time while they are at school is my mental health break from all things work and life. I start the morning with some type of workout, depending on the day and Ironman training. Then it is time to get chores and honey-dos done around the house before I am back at the school picking up the kids. Once we are home it is time to help them with school work. When that is done we tend to either be outside on bikes or skateboards or swimming. We eat, laugh and enjoy each others company, then maybe a game or just hanging out before it is time for the kids to shower up. Then we read, next is prayer time and off to sleep they go. The next hour or so is time for my wife and I to check in with each other about our days. She falls asleep and then I usually put in an hour or so working on non-profit work.
Life at the firehouse… When you have the best job in the world it is quite easy to go to work except for being away from family. My day starts with a check-in with the six other guys at my station and then checking out my ladder truck. I am the Engineer for the Truck Company, so making sure everything on the 60-foot long tractor drawn aerial (tiller truck, hook and ladder, fire truck etc) works perfectly and is ready to go when the need arises is my first priority. The remainder of the day is filled with different things each day: 911 calls, training, cleaning, cooking, shopping, yard work, fire prevention, and so on. Then we try to get some rest in the evening if there are no 911 calls and do it all again the next day. I have the amazing opportunity to also help run our social media and audio visual programs for the department. These tasks fill in the nooks and crannies of time when we may have a moment of downtime between 7am and 11pm, or later. I love shooting pictures and motion pictures, so to be able to use this skillset at work as well is amazing.
Has your work day changed due to the current state of Covid19?
Our morning is filled with disinfecting all surfaces of the fire station and fire apparatus. After that it is business as, well, not usual. We don't get to go to schools and teach kids, we don’t get to have groups visit the fire station to show them our job, we can’t have our families stop by for a hug, no more shopping together as a crew for dinners, every call is different as well. The other day we stopped to help an elderly man from his vehicle to wheelchair and had to ask a big group of questions before we could do that. Times are definitely a lot different but we will get through this. My “work day” though is a different definition now. Instead of getting off shift and getting everyone off to their day, now I am a full time teacher as well. So my days at home are filled with math, reading, writing, and other school lessons.
You ride the mountain bike as your choice of exercise. When did this begin and what does the bike add to your life?
My earliest of years have pictures of me jumping over my brothers on my GT Mach One. Then I moved on to my friends trucks as I grew up. Eventually I outgrew that and got onto a mountain bike. I would use the Gary Fisher hardtail or GT RTS-3 to enjoy time on the dirt. When I moved for the job I kept with it and truly enjoy being outdoors and on the trail. As a life goal I wanted to do an Ironman. Without ever riding a road bike or doing a triathlon I signed up for Santa Rosa Ironman in 2018. I had to learn to ride a road bike and became addicted to triathlon as well now. While training for Ironman I fought fire in Santa Rosa in 2017 and forever changed my view and heart for a city. Now I ride my bikes all the time and make sure to keep my kids on them as well. Being on two wheels is a big part of staying mentally healthy and ready to perform at work and be all in at home. I have made this realization and now I race and bring awareness to firefighter mental health at every race. I have custom gear to promote an amazing non-profit called Next Rung. They are on the front lines and always there 24-7 for firefighters struggling with mental health. We lost more firefighters last year to suicide than to on the job deaths. This isn’t ok with me so I have a new purpose in racing and riding. Every person I ride and talk with I try to tell them about the struggle so they to can talk to the firefighters in their own life to make sure they know there is help.
Can you tell us what bike you ride, if you've tricked it out and what one bike bit you are lusting after at the moment.
Well according to my kids and my wife I ride too many and I still lust for more.
2019 Specialized Enduro 29er that I bought as an end of the year deal, it is completely stock with Fox suspension for the 160mm of travel and I run it with Crank Brothers Flat Pedals. This is my main bike for playing at the bike park. Teamed up with a Kali Maya Helmet.
2019 Specialized Fuse Hardtail that I got used on a trade for some bike parts, This bike is super fun with an upgraded 160mm DVO fork and I have both 27.5 plus tires and 29er wheel sets. I have this set up with Crank Brothers Clipless pedals. This bike is used for gravel rides and hard workouts at the bike park and off-road triathlons. Teamed up with a Kali Chakra
2014 Specialized Roubaix that I got off facebook and did a few upgrades. Upgraded to 10 speed with Ultegra Cranks and a Stages Power Meter, rolling on a used set of Reynolds wheels I picked up off facebook. This is bike spends lots of training miles on the road and got me through a 200 mile day last November. Teamed up with either Kali Phenom or Therapy depending on matching with my Kit.
2014 Kestrel 4000. This is my triathlon race bike and has seen the podium many times at local sprints. I run a FSA power meter, tririg cockpit and some cheap 80mm wheels and Di2 groupset. She works for now but is the wrong size for me at a 57.5 and needing a 56. I bought it when I knew nothing about triathlon or road bikes for that matter, oops. I team this up with a Kali Tava and hope to see a face shield/removable goggle aero road helmet from you guys in the future.
Lusting after would be the Specialized SHIV, or a Qunitana ROO PRsix2 disc, or the new redesign Specialized S-works enduro. I spend a lot of time on the tri bike as I am training for Ironman Santa Rosa and Ironman Arizona tis year, that is if they dont get cancelled. A bike that fits and keeps me comfortable and fast would be amazing.
Do you have any advice for the kids out there who are dreaming of being a firefighter when they grow up?
Oh man, if I could talk to everyone of these kids it would be amazing. I love doing public education and interacting with the kids and young adults. Advice… Stay in school, put 110% into it. Learn whatever you can whenever you can. The job of a firefighter stretches all ranges and we truly are the jack of all trades. On a daily basis we are challenged with fixing a problem for someone else who is having the worst day of their life and had to call 911. We need to be prepared to keep them calm and come up with a solution. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for other jobs that pay twice as much.
Where is the one place you dream of riding when all the travel restriction are lifted and you can ride one off your bucket list?
I truly want to get the bike park back open so other cyclists can regain their mental health. It will take a lot of volunteer hours to get the trails back open as we have been shut down in the busiest volunteer time, I am sure the trails are overgrown with weeds and some major work will need to be done. It is a bit of a curse that my heart is so into this place that I really don't get out to other riding areas often. I would love to be back in Park City someday, I had the chance to ride there a few years back and still smile about it when I think of it.
Do you have one piece of advice for the Kali Krew during these difficult times?
A saying from the Next Rung family is Faith Family Fire Fitness. If you break that down and apply it to your own life. Hold onto your faith, Hold onto your family, Stay true to who you are, and stay healthy and fit. Don't believe everything you read on social media, research things on your own, and in the end remember we are strong and will get through this. GOD BLESS AMERICA
You can follow Grant's journey on his instagram: @swimbikerunsmile