About Scott Cagle
Hometown: Born in Fulton County, but moved to Hall County when I was 4 years old. So I consider Gainesville-Hall County my hometown.
Length of time in Gainesville-Hall County: 34 years
Education: North Georgia Technical College, Lanier Technical College, Georgia Fire Academy, Northeast Georgia Police Academy
Occupation: Hall County fire marshal
Most interesting job: I have been a firefighter with Hall County since I graduated North Hall High School. It's been my only career, and this October, I will celebrate my 20th year
Family information: Married a beautiful blonde cheerleader from high school, Jennifer Smith Cagle
Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone of interest in our community to answer five questions about their job, hobby or some other aspect of their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for the feature, send their name and contact information to email@example.com.
Scott Cagle has spent his entire professional career with Hall County Fire Services. Starting as a firefighter, he has moved up the ranks and today serves as the county's fire marshal. Today, The Times asks Cagle five questions about why he's so passionate about his career.
1. Are people more fire-safety conscious than they used to be?
Overall, I would say yes. During the 1980s, Georgia averaged over 300 fire fatalities every year and during the '90s the average dropped to around 100 per year. The number continues to hover below and just above 100 every year. I believe this is due to continued fire safety efforts in schools, churches and civic clubs.
I remember when I was a kid in school, the firefighters would come and talk about being a firefighter. Now we concentrate more on the fire/life safety education side. In addition to the public being more "fire safety conscious," I also believe newer fire codes have helped lower fire injuries and fire fatalities.
2. What new fire dangers have emerged in the high-tech age?
The "high-tech" age has increased the demands on people's time. We are multitasking, having our attention drawn in several different directions. That increases the distraction and focus away from fire prevention, which can increase the number of fires. Cooking fires are one example; candle fires are another. Because we live in the new tech age, we feel safer when we really aren't.
3. What's the most difficult part of your job?
The children! No matter how long I do this, it never gets easy investigating a fire fatality case or an accident when a helpless child has been injured. They say to never "bring your work home" but I find that almost impossible.
I have thousands of horrible images etched into my memory of calls I have run over the years. Wrecks, infants with scald burns, suicides, scenes of the '98 tornado, and the list goes on and on. This is why we are persistent about fire and life safety. I have such a huge passion about my job and compassion about people. I always try to treat people the way I would want to be treated.
4. If you could give one piece of advice to homeowners to protect themselves from fire, what would it be?
I have the honor and privilege to sit on the board of Directors for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation. I see children and adults on a yearly basis who have been injured and scarred for life by fires. I would advise families to take fire safety seriously and to never say "it will not happen to me."
First, always keep "working" smoke alarms in your home, especially located in hallways and all bedrooms. Next, have a family escape plan your entire family knows and has practiced to ensure family members know how to get out in case of a fire.
Periodically walk through your home and look for potential fire hazards. Correct these and you will stop the fire from ever happening in the first place.
Finally for new homeowners, think about residential fire sprinklers. A residential fire sprinkler system is proven to save lives, save on insurance premiums, and does far less water damage than firefighters. Overall vigilance in home fire safety is a must for any homeowner.
5. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a firefighter?
As corny as it may sound, follow your heart. I believe this is a calling, a lifestyle. You don't do it for the money, it's not a "job" or a part-time job with benefits. It's a calling. I would advise someone who wants to have this type of career to think and pray about it.
As I write the answers to my five questions, I sit in our Emergency Operations Center at 10 p.m., watching approaching severe storms move our way, while my wife is at home. She is the real hero in all of this and my No. 1 support.
Although it is sometimes fun, exciting, and there is no way to describe the feeling of saving a life, from time to time you miss birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
Don't worry about classes or training because the training officers will handle that part of it. My advice is to pray and really think about getting into this career. Seek out a mentor and ask lots of questions.