Blake Hudson knew for three weeks he was the 2019 Firefighter of the Year.
What he didn’t know were his requirements as the winner at the banquet at the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. Thanks to his friendly co-workers and firefighter team building, that lack of knowledge cost him some effort.
“We told him (as a prank) he needed to have a speech ready,” ACFD Capt. Dave Macoy said. “We told him about three weeks ahead of time.”
Macoy wasn’t the only one in on the secret.
“Everybody would ask him about his speech,” Macoy said. “Even the ladies in the front office got in on it.”
So for three weeks Hudson worked on his congratulatory speech only to find out the night of the award presentation he didn’t have to do it. For many, the extra work for nothing might be a bother. To Hudson, it was all about the firehouse fun firefighters have to help deal with the stress of the job and amount of time they spend with each other.
“I spent three weeks to find out I didn’t have to give (a speech),” Hudson said. “We mess with each other like that. When you spend 33% of your lives together, you have to have fun like that.”
Hudson started training at the Alexander City Fire Department in July 2016, not even two months after he graduated from Horseshoe Bend School. Becoming a firefighter wasn’t really on Hudson’s radar. His cousin Tyler Lashley started as firefighter in Alexander City and is now an officer in the fire department, but Hudson had no other connections to public safety.
“One of my buddies applied here,” Hudson said. “He called me and said they were looking for people. I thought about it and applied.”
Macoy said the department relies on the young to keep the fire department in tip-top shape as it is difficult to fight fires and wrecks as you age.
“It is harder on the body as you get older,” Macoy said. “The young guys can do it. You got to rely heavily on the young guys.”
Hudson’s only full time job has been with the Alexander City Fire Department. With only three and half years in the red fire trucks, he has a long way to go before retirement.
Macoy said it is sometimes difficult to know if 19- to 20-something-year-olds can make the cut with the study requirements to become an EMT and firefighter. Macoy said Hudson did struggle like many in the classes during initial training but ultimately did well.
“You never know how those 20-somethings will transition,” Macoy said. “(Hudson) fought through some adversity and it would have been easy for him to give up. He made the transition well.”
Hudson hasn’t stopped learning and training since joining the fire department.
“I’ve learned a lot about emergency care,” Hudson said. “There is always something to learn.”
Hudson is currently an advanced EMT with ACFD but is still working to move up.
“I’m in paramedic school at Southern Union,” Hudson said. “I will be finished up in December. I will be licensed for the highest care in an ambulance in the department.”
Despite not knowing much about a fire department in 2016 when he started, he has grown to like the job.
“I like helping people,” Hudson said. “I like the adrenaline of fighting fire.”
Hudson said everyone at ACFD played a role in his learning and being awarded 2019 Firefighter of the Year.
“I appreciate what everyone along the way has done for me,” Hudson said. “It means the world. I wasn’t expecting it. It’s truly an honor.”