The family business
Buford firefighter's sons follow in his footsteps

Scott Sheppard never thought his identical twin boys, Brad and Chad, would end up following in his firefighting footsteps.

"They never did make that indication to me," he said.

After high school his sons went off to separate colleges, but sure enough felt that familiar calling creep up not long after.

"All of a sudden," Scott said, "they pretty much just came to me and said they wanted to be a firefighter."

Their dad told them they'd have to pass all the necessary tests and training, but that once they did, he'd see what he could do to help.

"Next thing I know, they're hired," he said.

Now 21, Brad and Chad Sheppard were only 18 when they made their aspirations known. Scott had been the same age when he started.

At 47, the Sheppard patriarch has led a long career battling blazes in Georgia, many of them in Gwinnett. And after nearly three decades of service, he's risen to the rank of captain at Station 24, near the Mall of Georgia in Buford.

Scott said he dreamed of donning the uniform "pretty much my whole life, growing up."

"I had relatives who worked at the DeKalb County fire department," he said. "Pretty much just listening to them tell stories and everything like that, I decided that's what I wanted to do, pretty much at a young age."

It was stories like that, years later and this time spun by Scott himself, that captured the imaginations of his own two kids. Sometimes, Brad and Chad even got to see their dad in action firsthand.

"As they was growing up," Scott said, "I was a volunteer firefighter for the community where we lived. And I remember on some days I was supposed to be babysitting them, and we'd get a call, and I would take them on calls with me. And they'd have to sit in my truck while I was out doing what I was doing."

Chad said he was enthralled by what he witnessed.

"I had a good idea then, that that's what I wanted to do," he said.

Recently, the Sheppard trio once again found themselves at the site of a burning blaze. Only this time, they were all in uniform.

"There was one case where we had an apartment fire down in Norcross," Scott said, recounting the event, "and I was listening to it on my portable radio. And I knew that Chad's truck was there - they were pretty much the first truck. Then they called Brad's engine to assist them, and while I was listening to the radio traffic and everything like that, they run my truck out."

All three arrived on the scene, helping to overpower the inferno from different areas.

"They rang out a second alarm," Chad recalled, "and I see my brother show up on the engine. And he actually grabbed the hose off our truck. I yelled to him and he threw his hand up. ... It was pretty neat."

It's actually an uncommon occurance for the Sheppards to cross paths on the job, as the county won't allow family members to work in the same station.

"I can't be their direct supervisor," Scott said of the regulation. "We can all work on the same shift, but we're in different areas of the county."

So how does Mrs. Sheppard feel about the men of the house taking on such a dangerous duty? Scott said it's not always easy on her, but that the level of training offered in this county helps keep her mind at ease.

"I guess she trusts the people in the department, by what I've been around," Scott said. "The type of training Gwinnett has is just awesome ... and the senior firefighters and everything like that, we trust them with the boys, and make sure they're gonna look out for them."

That's not to say he doesn't look out for them himself sometimes, from afar.

"Sometimes I hear a call go out," he said, "and I can go out and pull it up on the computer on the truck and look at it and see what type of situation they have, so I can monitor the call they're on."

Mom still can't help but worry sometimes.

"My wife," Scott said, "she doesn't have anything to do with that, especially if they're working another shift and we're at home listening to it on the scanner, she don't wanna hear it. She completely blocks it out."

Of course, with a dad who was once in their shoes, the boys still seek out fatherly advice from time to time. After all, not every story ends up a happy one.

"Chad was (called out to) a pretty bad wreck on 85 several months ago," Scott said. "And we talked about it, and was able to sit down where we could really talk it out. That's the best thing to do, is talk about the bad calls, to get it out."

So goes what Scott calls "one of the most dangerous jobs around," but then again, that's exactly what he suspects hooked Brad and Chad in the first place - the sheer excitement of it all.

"I think (it was) just me coming home and sharing some of the stories and everything like that, what I did at work," he said. "I think just the exciting part of it is, you know, there's always something going on. You're not sitting behind a desk, and in an office all the time. I mean, you're out doing stuff, and just about every call is different."

Chad agreed.

"I love it," he said. "It's definitely something that I want to stick with."