FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When you picture a poet, a firefighter might not be the first person you think of. Even if you did, Gary Wedemeyer probably wouldn't be the first firefighter coming to mind.
"If you put me in a lineup with a bunch of firefighters and said pick the one who's writing poetry, I'd probably be the last one they'd pick," Wedemeyer said with a smile. He's been a firefighter for 37 years and works as a captain at Fresno Fire's Station 6 in northeast Fresno.
He got the idea to write poetry after reading a book of poems written by an American soldier in Iraq and thought it might be healthy for him to do the same.
He says he's written seven or eight poems to this point, all based on experiences he's had in the field. Some rhyme and some don't, but all are a somber, sobering look at what first responders see.
"We're thrust in someone's nightmare and a lot of it hits home. It could happen to you and you relate to it. That could be my kid or my mom," he said.
One poem is a vivid look into a call Wedemeyer responded to more than two decades ago that has sat with him ever since titled "A Small Boy":
Wedemeyer says that writing the poems has proven to be an effective way of helping him cope with the trauma that comes with being a first responder.
"Talking about it, writing about it, that does help," he said. He does have to deal with the occasional jokes made at his expense.
"I always thought that was a tough thing, hey nothing bothers me I'm tough. That's not healthy. The ones that are healthy are the ones who come back and talk about it, that's the healthy way to deal with it," he said.
Despite the dangers and trauma that comes with the job, Wedemeyer says he wouldn't choose to do anything else.
"The upside is, sometimes you do CPR and you succeed, sometimes you save someone's child or grandma or house. There's no better feeling," he said
Wedemeyer's poems were put on display at Fresno Fire Station 3 during ArtHop in May, and he expects his wife to encourage him to do it again. In addition to A Small Boy above, two of his other pieces can be viewed below. WARNING: the poems are based on real accounts and some may consider them to be graphic and disturbing in nature.