Behind The Scenes

Meet these ESPN employees who also answer calls as local firefighters

Editor’s note: When New England was hammered by severe weather in August and October, several ESPN employees responded to the call to address storm damage in their roles as volunteer firefighters. As the winter season begins, here’s a look at a few of those dedicated employees.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

While most of us are still trying to find the answer to that question, you probably were sure at some point that you were going to be an astronaut or a firefighter.

ESPN has more than 4,000 employees on its Bristol campus, none of whom operate from outer space.

Some of them do, however, strap on a helmet and help the people of their community as volunteer firefighters.

Front Row caught up with some of these brave men and women to discover what it might be like to ride shotgun on one of their calls.

It’s 3 a.m.: A pager goes off in the home of Mark Caswell.

A Multimedia Specialist at ESPN by day, he spends his hours shooting and editing content for various ESPN platforms.

Right now he is a firefighter for the Prospect, Conn. Fire Department.

Within 7 minutes, Caswell is at the station in full gear with his team ready to respond.

This morning it is a carbon monoxide alarm, and the problem is remedied by airing out the structure.

By the time he gets home, he is able to get a quick nap before he has to go to his day job.

This call is not out of the ordinary or unique to Caswell. As any firefighter will tell you, it’s not something you do in your spare time; it’s a way of life.

Standard helmets that our ESPN employees use while on the job in their respective towns.

Ken Boudreau is a Simsbury, Conn. fire lieutenant who has been in the game for 37 years. To pay the bills he manages ESPN’s media assets and operations. He is responsible for overseeing any footage that is ingested onto our servers.

“People don’t realize that you may have responded to a house fire at four in the morning, and then headed straight to work,” Boudreau said.

On Oct. 28, 2011, Connecticut was hit with one of the worst winter storms in recent memory, leaving much of the state crippled and without power.

In a little less than a week, Simsbury received about 210 storm-related calls.

That’s more than a third of the 600-a-year average.

ESPN's Bill Meade after a fire in February 2010.

Bob Regina is the Associate Director of Resource Management services at ESPN.

Any piece of equipment that comes to our campus in Bristol has to go through him first.

He has also been a Newington, Conn. firefighter for 36 years. As part of the relief effort during the storm, Regina recounts the action that he saw.

“There was a definite pattern in how the calls were received. At first, they were mostly people who had downed trees and power lines that had caught fire,” he said.

“A couple days later, people’s basements started to flood from the melting snow.”

Later in the week, the calls shifted from water damage to air quality concerns.

“People were desperately trying to heat their homes without electricity and some were running generators indoors,” he said. “We even responded to someone who had fired up their charcoal grill in the kitchen.”

Geoff Zeigler, a Media Support specialist at ESPN, is sitting across from Regina as he describes his experience.

Newington’s Ziegler interjects: “Sometimes it was tough, because we would be out all day on calls and then have to come home and take care of our own homes and families that had no electricity or running water.”

If this sounds like a lot of work for not a lot of pay, you would be correct.

(Zero dollars an hour to be exact, which if you do the math comes out to about zero dollars per year.)

So why do it?

““I had a lot of friends who were fire fighters, and after 9/11 I decided it was time to join,” said Simsbury firefighter Guy Casalino, an applications support specialist at ESPN who provides employees with help when they have technology related issues.

One thing that all firefighters seem to point out is the bond that is formed with the people they work beside.

As Regina puts it, “These people become family to you. It’s great to know that if I need a couch moved into my house, I’ve got 150 guys that would jump at the chance to help.”

The main motivation, however, might be simply this: Helping other people just feels good.

Note: Thanks to the Volunteer Fire Department of Prospect Inc. for use of its engine.

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