CLINTON —Three Clinton firefighters talked about their colleagues Adam Cain and Eric Hosette Wednesday afternoon, despite the risk that they might break down in tears.
Hosette's Battalion Chief Joel Atkinson, Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown and Firefighter Darrin Farrell took a short break from funeral preparations to answer reporters' questions at Central Fire Station.
Brown and Atkinson remembered Hosette, who died while fighting a fire at Archer Daniels Midland in Clinton on Saturday, as a dependable guy.
"Eric was on my shift," Atkinson said. "He was a get-it-done guy."
Farrell met Hosette in Goose Lake, where Farrell grew up, while Hosette was working for the Charlotte Fire Department, less than fives miles east on Iowa 136. Farrell knows Cain better.
"Adam and I have been friends since we could talk and walk," he said. "He's my best friend."
Cain remains in critical condition in Iowa City. Farrell spends as much time as he can there when he's not at work, he said.
Cain and Farrell spent elementary school, high school and college years together doing all the things close friends do, such as taking road trips and seeing concerts.
"One weekend we saw a concert together, him, myself and about five other friends," Farrell said. "We saw Kenny Chesney, Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett. It was a blast. A lot of fun."
Cain's father, Kevin, is fire chief in Goose Lake. When Cain turned 16, he joined the Goose Lake Fire Department as a junior firefighter. Farrell was a few months younger and had to watch Cain go out on calls until Farrell turned 16 and joined as well.
"Adam comes into work, makes you laugh right off the bat," Farrell said. "If you don't come in with a good attitude, he's going to change it right away."
Having his close friend on the fire department with him is important to Farrell. When other people don't understand what he's dealing with, Cain does because he's a firefighter, too.
Cain has a bright future with the Clinton Fire Department, Atkinson said.
Brown agreed. "We'll be anxious to get Adam back," he said.
"It's going to be devastating to the fire department to replace Eric," Atkinson said. Especially in the maintenance department. "He was the go-to guy" when trucks needed work.
Hosette's mechanical skills extended to tractors and steam engines, interests that took him to the Mount Pleasant Old Thrashers every year, Atkinson said. "He's a Case guy. If you're a Case guy, you're not a John Deere guy."
Case IH tractors are red. Putting John Deere green in Hosette's locker was one practical joke his brothers in uniform played on him.
"Eric was a jokester," Atkinson said, but he also took jokes well.
The extent of community support has overwhelmed the firefighters, they said. Not only have the town of Clinton and residents of Clinton County shown support, but people from across the country have offered their condolences.
"I can't keep up with text messages and emails," Brown said.
"We've never experienced anything like this before, so you don't know what to expect," Atkinson said.
One unexpected result was the return of firefighters, Brown said.
"We brought a lot of people back into service," he said. "Our retirees started showing up."
As firefighters prepare for Saturday's memorial service for Hosette, people continue to ask what they can do for the fire department and their families.
"We don't need any more food," Brown said. Every refrigerator at Central Fire Station, including an additional one brought in by another fire department, is full.
Atkinson suggested that people donate blood in Hosette's memory or in support of Cain, who has received blood during surgery. Accounts have been set up for both Hosette and Cain's families at Clinton National Bank for monetary donations.
Meanwhile, Clinton glows, and Central Station will be adding to the light show.
"Musco Lighting is coming, and they're going to turn our station red," said Brown.