"It’s an unusual situation."
That’s what Morehead Fire Department Chief Jeff Anderson, 57, says of his life balancing his two loves: his family and his work. He moved to town eight years ago to lead the Morehead Fire Department, leaving his family 140 miles away.
"It's a sacrifice," Jeff says. "It's different, but we manage."
That's not the only unusual part of Jeff's life. He also is Morehead's only full-time firefighter. He and two part-time employees and another 60 volunteers watch over 110 square miles in Rowan County, fielding approximately 900 calls a year. "It is a busy job," says Jeff. "Most of the time I feel like I'm on call 24/7. Lots of times I am."
Calls over a recent 48-hour period run the gamut from car wrecks to a laundry-room mishap at Morehead State University to a life-claiming house fire. Jeff intends to catch a nap but never makes it. He says he’s used to it, and anyway, the schedule comes with the job. "I guess that's what I like about it – it's not typical," he says. "It's not going in and doing the same thing. Rarely are days the same."
Jeff's father was a a volunteer firefighter, and his daughter, Kendall, notes firefighting shaped her father's life from an early age. "It’s just been a part of our whole family culture,” she says. “He has a passion.”
Kendall was just 13 when her father moved to Morehead. She says her dad has done everything to make the distance work, and his positive example has her considering a future in firefighting herself. “It’s tough not seeing him all the time, but he works wonders and it’s not that far away."
Jeff doesn't know exactly what the future holds or when his family will reunite, but for now the balance works. “I want to stick this out, try to build this department,” he says. "I think I’ve helped.”