Tommy Shelton has been a long term resident of the county, and his sense of humor is a well-known hallmark of his personality. But there is one thing Shelton faces with less levity: his job of nearly 14 years as a DFW airport firefighter and fire truck engineer. Still true to his nature, Shelton has managed to bring an element of fun to that as well. Facing a round trip commute of 200 miles several days a week while working part-time for the Erath County Fire Department certainly keeps him busy, but he good naturedly carved out a bit of time to answer three questions for the E-T.
Although you are a firefighter, working in the airport has to be different from working here in the county. What are some of your duties that are distinct to your job at DFW?
“I operate an unusual fire truck. I run a Snozzle, which is an aircraft firefighting truck. It has a boom that can pierce an aircraft. I can poke foam or water into an airplane.
“I’m also the quarter master. I issue bunker gear and uniforms to all the employees in fire rescue. In the fire division, there are close to 200 people. So there are a lot of people I keep up with.”
Since 911 you probably approach your job with a greater sense of gravity than before the event. But it would be hard to imagine you not bringing some amusement to your fellow firefighters at the airport. What is something you have introduced to lighten the moments of your shifts?
“The military used to bring in about 100 soldiers a day for a (rest and relaxation) flight. They’d come to DFW, and then go on their merry way for two weeks before coming back and leaving out again. We made it a tradition that every time a flight came to DFW, we would spray over that plane with the water of our crash trucks as a salute. We got so many letters from people in the military thanking us. And we were the only airport to continue doing that until they ceased operations coming in at DFW last month.
“I did the first water salute we had. And I coordinated it every day that I worked.”
What do you love most about your job?
“It’s good money, and it’s neat to work in the city. But then I can come home and live in the country. It’s like two different worlds. It allows me to separate work and relaxation.
“A lot of interesting things are always happening in a job like mine. It’s different every day in this business. It’s just fun to go to work.”