Mike Keating: Keeping Everything in Service on the Hilltop

Mike works with the Scarsdale Fire Department as a volunteer Fire Fighter. Mike is a main operator of the SSU36 (pictured), a fire unit specifically designed for holding necessary equipment for fighting long term fires.

In the footsteps of his father and brother, Mike Keating started work as a volunteer firefighter for the Scarsdale Fire Department in 1973. He had barely graduated high school in 1972 when he began working, first working for an electrician, next as a plumber, and later in a long-term job with the Scarsdale Public Works Department. His job entailed being on call for the Public Works Department, meaning he was called in the middle of the night for everything from a rock in the middle of the road to a sewer backup. It was through his work as a volunteer firefighter and with the Public Works Department that he met a Sergeant in the police department who introduced him to Hackley. In 2017, he joined the Buildings and Grounds crew.

Outside of Hackley, Mike enjoys spending time with his family, keeping up an antique fire truck (with other family members), and being part of the Scarsdale Fire Department. The 1928 antique fire truck was acquired by Mike’s father and brother in 1971. Aside from its status as a family heirloom, the fire truck is a testament to his family’s commitment to service and the Scarsdale Fire Department.

“It’s in my blood. I enjoy the camaraderie.” Mike said. Every month he attends the fire department’s monthly meetings and twice a month drills. He enjoys the community he found in the department.

“I don’t just do it for the soda, pizza, or the six-foot wedge after our [monthly department meetings], but you develop a friendship and association with these people. You enjoy spending time with them,” Mike said.

Mike has a prominent role in his classification as a volunteer in the fire department. Except for isolated cases, only the paid career firefighters are allowed to drive the fire trucks. Outside of this, a small volunteer group works with the SSU36. The SSU36 is a utility vehicle that resembles a large box ambulance used for working structure fires (which the department calls a ten-seventy-five).

In the case of a working structure fire, Mike is the leading operator of the SSU36. This means that he is in charge of its contents, which include extra SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) bottles and kits, generators, lighting, decontamination equipment, and heating apparatuses.

By heading operations of the SSU36, Mike not only knows the protocol for long-term fire operations, but he also is in charge of much of the supplies necessary for an active fire call. Mike explains that some of the calls are physically taxing and require individuals who both know how to use the equipment and have the strength to work safely. If the call is a long fire, the department mandates that each individual needs to take a break after expelling two bottles of the SCBA.

While Mike says he enjoys the active nature of the department, some of the calls are difficult. In addition to fires, the department gets called to accident scenes. He reflected on a difficult call around twenty years ago when he remembers going to a bad car accident where a woman’s leg was trapped underneath the car’s brake pedal. The fire team had to use the jaws of life (also called the hydraulic spreader-cutter for its claw-like ability to pry open or cut heavy metals) to extricate the woman. Mike feels that while building fires are difficult in a different way, releasing people from entrapped vehicles and dealing with other accidents are a demanding process both physically and mentally for the fire team since they consistently tend to patients in pain.

Despite the difficult nature of some of the calls, Mike explains that he continues volunteering because he wants to and he enjoys helping others. In his early years of working with the department, he was told to look at the department as if it were “a circle” where everyone has their spot on the circle. Each of the fire department members ranged from an older accountant who was no longer a practicing fireman, to someone like Mike himself, who was young and could do the physical work. He sees how he fits into the circle and how each person’s job is vital in the department and larger Scarsdale.

Mike’s enjoyment of providing aid to his home community as a fire department volunteer carries over to the Hackley community, where he expresses how much he likes having so many different projects and tasks on campus. He appreciates how the job isn’t just one type of assignment and allows him to work in all his areas of expertise. His position in the Hackley community helps the Hilltop to thrive and highlights the importance of listening to one another’s stories and getting to know the people who help keep this campus running.

“It gives me a good feeling knowing that I’m giving back to my community.”