Serving the community: Adrenaline, math and heroism makes the job fun
At 23, he’s already been honored as a hero. But for Summerville Fire Department’s Assistant Engineer Ryan Howlett of Summerville, he’s just doing what he loves.
Joining the fire service when he was 17 and still in high school, Howlett became a member of C & B, an all-volunteer fire department, as a junior firefighter. He joined SFD three years later.
After graduating from high school he went to the Fire Academy and took 27 classes in both fire and EMT training and is certified in both.
However he finds firefighting much more exciting than EMT work. “It has the adrenaline rush,” he explained. “And, we are first responders,” which means he uses his medical training as well. He is also a certified scuba diver.
Growing up he moved from North Charleston to Summerville, attended Stratford High School in Goose Creek and was home schooled through Christian Kingdom Academy. His mother is an EMT-I and is step-dad is a paramedic. His older brother is with the North Charleston Fire Department. It runs in the family.
His dad works with boats at Palmetto Boats and his little brother works for the City of North Charleston with the roads department.
Howlett has no real home with SFD yet – he’s what they call a floater. He is normally at Station 3 on Trolley Road but he goes wherever he is needed during his shift.
As an Assistant Engineer he might be driving an engine, if the normal driver is not available, or he might be the tailboard man, riding backwards in the jump seat.
Then at the scene it gets a bit more complicated, depending on the order of arrival. For example, if his is the first truck to arrive on the scene it will be assigned to suppressing the fire (actually fighting it).
Howlett does such things as lay line (get the hoses out and lying in the proper direction) or he might be on the gauges, pumping.
A complicated job, this means he must contuously calculate (in his head) pressure vs friction vs diameter (of the hose) vs length (of the hose) in order to make sure the men on the fire fighting end of the hose have enough water to safely fight the fire.
Obviously whoever is pumping the fire needs to have a competent grasp of mathematics.
“I love math,” he laughs, “it is a lot of fun pumping.”
And, of course, going into a fire is exciting as well. “It is an adrenaline rush, feeling the heat,” he explains.
Howlett says he’s not scared when inside a burning building but aware.
“I am really aware of the level of training needed to be safe,” he said, “and Summerville has a really good training department. We are trained to look for different signs when inside a fire. So many different things can happen and you never really know what you are dealing with.”
At only 23, he has not had any really bad experiences. He has, however, had some good ones. Such as the day he and his firefighter best friend, 26-year-old Brandon Bryant, were travelling on I26 and came upon a motor vehicle crash. While Brandon called for fire, rescue and police, Howlett extricated the victim out of the car. For that, they were honored during a recent fire department ceremony.
And when he’s not feeling that adrenaline?
“I take care of my dog – a 10-week old yellow lab,” he said. “I love to be outdoors. Anything outdoors, fishing, I love being on the lake.” His grandparents had a place on Lake Moultrie.
He also spends time with his family. “My little brother is pretty much my life!”
And firefighting? “It is something I have always wanted to do…I love it.”