Having a grandfather, father, and older brothers who were firefighters, Rick Ennis knew at an early age what he wanted to do as a career. After working as firefighter and studying firefighting practices, Ennis found himself in Cape Girardeau, where he has served as Fire Chief since 2004.
“It’s not that I was forced to do it or anything, it’s what I liked to do,” Ennis said. “It was the only thing I enjoyed doing, the only thing I had any skills in.”
Ennis was born and raised just south of Pittsburgh, Penn. and moved to Dayton, Ohio where he graduated from high school. After high school, Ennis continued his education by learning paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) practices. He earned an associate degree in fire science technology at Sinclair Community College and a bachelor’s degree in urban affairs at Wright State University.
Ennis started his fire service career as a volunteer in West Carrollton, Ohio after graduating high school in 1981. Since becoming the Fire Chief in Cape Girardeau, Ennis has realized that being a fire chief and firefighter in general has its challenges.
“The most challenging thing about being Fire Chief is kind of being stuck in the middle between the firefighters, the community, and the policy-makers,” Ennis said. “And, as a fire chief, you have a perspective from all three sides because you were a firefighter and are still a firefighter at heart. You are a citizen, and you are part of the government. So, you have perspectives on issues from all three sides and you have to try to balance all three perspectives and try to convince all three groups (firefighters, citizens, and government officials) of what’s best.”
According to Ennis, being a firefighter poses difficult mental and physical challenges. Ennis says that firefighters must retain a lot of information because they are also responsible for activities such as technical rescue, code enforcement, and other details that go past just putting out fires.
Although it poses many challenges, Ennis loves his job because he goes into work never knowing what the day will bring.
“There are many days when nothing really happens and then it is very routine,” Ennis said. “You go about your training and your maintenance, or in the chief job you go about your budgeting and your paperwork, but you always know that that five minutes from now we may be out doing something that is life threatening.”
When asked what he enjoys most about working in Cape Girardeau, Ennis immediately says it’s the people who live and work here with him.
“I always said when I came here in 2004, I felt when I was interviewing that people were going out of their way to make me feel welcome and make my family feel welcome. After 9 years, I realized nobody was going out of their way; it’s just the natural way that they are,” Ennis said.
Although being Fire Chief keeps him busy, Ennis still makes time for his wife and three adult children.
“My three kids are grown and out of the house, but I travel a little bit to see them,” Ennis said. “I like to spend time with my wife and try to take short trips.”