When James Marien was a child growing up on a farm in Alexandria, he played at being a police officer, a fireman and a superhero; and always knew he wanted a job one day that would “make a difference.” He is living his dream today by serving the public as a firefighter, sheriff’s deputy and as an emergency medical technician. For the last 34 years, Marien has worked for the Alexandria Fire Department, and for the last 30 years, he has served as a deputy for the Rapides Parish Sheriff Department. In addition, decades ago, Marien became a certified EMT.
At 56 years old, Marien is now the second assistant fire chief for the Alexandria Fire Department and “C Shift” supervisor. It’s a job he “loves” and one he considers worthy of his life-long career commitment. “I always wanted to do something with my life that would help people and serve my community. I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” explains Marien. To be able to help someone through a catastrophe or disaster and then to look into their eyes and see a look of gratitude brings a warmth to his heart, Marien notes. “It makes me feel good to know I actually have helped someone through a bad experience. There just isn’t another feeling like it,” he adds.
With his best calculations, Marien figures he has personally responded to more than 12,000 emergency medical calls with the fire department during his tenure in Alexandria. The firefighter-deputy-EMT believes he has a calling on his life to help others, but says he does not think of himself as a “hero,” even though he has performed some heroic-like acts of rescue. “Most of the guys I work with don’t consider themselves heroes. They are all about helping the public. We work together and live together as a family. We are a brotherhood,” Marien says.
To train as a firefighter, Marien attended and graduated from the Louisiana State University Fire Academy. Additional training is required every year to stay on top of the latest fire-fighting equipment and techniques, as well as special life-saving methods. Marien, who is stationed at the fire station on Masonic and Lee streets in Alexandria, fondly recalls his early days as a firefighter. “Just like now, we would get woke up out of a sound sleep. I remember my heart pumping wildly, and being so excited. I would jump up, get into my bunker gear, and slide down the brass pole. It felt like I would go from zero to 100 miles per hour in a few minutes,” Marien says about the early adrenaline rushes.
Some of the training the firefighters participate in is especially grueling under the hot Louisiana sun. After strapping on the 80-pound air pack and putting on the bunker gear pants, boots, gloves and helmet, the firefighters will train in a “burn trailer.” Marien says the heat gets up to about 800 degrees with the controlled burn, and they watch and learn all the different phases a fire undergoes. “There is plenty of sweat, and about the longest any one can stand is about 15 minutes,” Marien says, adding that a house fire can quickly reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
His roles as firefighter, EMT and sheriff’s deputy constantly overlap, as does the training. As a deputy, Marien serves as one of the elderly protection officers, and makes home visits to investigate any reports of “elder abuse.” He started out with the department as a reserve officer working festivals, and then later helped out with manpower shortages. Marien was involved in two separate hostage situations as a firefighter, and has been in several altercations as an EMT where his training as a law enforcer has kept him in good stead.
Marien, the father of three, lives with his wife, Patricia, and his three step-children in Alexandria. In addition to serving the public as a firefighter and deputy, Marien believes in “giving back” any way possible. To that end, he has helped with benefits for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and for children at the Muscular Dystrophy Association camp. As we recognize Cenla’s First Responders, Jeff Marien’s career embodies the best qualities in a true public servant and hero.