At 3 a.m. when the radio on the nightstand blares to life with a call to action, River Mallery, 26, rolls out of bed, pulling on his fire gear as he tromps down the stairs.
Moments later he’s out the door, oftentimes met in the driveway by his brother and next-door neighbor, Roshua, 25, also lacing up his boots in response to the same call.
Once on scene, they’re apt to meet a third Mallery brother, Roman, 34, donning the same gear and Creston Fire logo.
Three of 11 siblings, Roman, River and Roshua carry a bond built over a lifetime to each call, from vehicle accidents to animal rescues, structure fires to medical emergencies.
That bond combined with deeply rooted values of teamwork and service, they said, made for a pretty natural transition into their work as volunteer firefighters.
The Mallerys grew up in Marion surrounded by people everywhere all the time.
“It’s kind of like you get along, or your life’s going to be little bit more miserable, so you just learn to get along, much to our advantage,” River said. “It’s not like we had our own rooms where we could go off and hide in. We had to get along with each other.”
According to the brothers, growing up in such a large family required teamwork and the development of respect based on position rather than rank or age.
“I think before we got onto the department, the pecking order had been well established,” Roshua said.
Their parents, both strong Christians, also instilled in their children values of generosity and selflessness that lent themselves to the relationships the siblings built between themselves and the world.
“We became problem solvers, and not just problems solvers, but we learned how to work with people,” Roshua said. “We all learned the value of a team and how much more we could succeed as a team. It became a very natural transition into a department.”
Their interest in joining a volunteer fire department, however, didn’t peak until their fascination with fire as boys got slightly out of hand.
“Every firefighter has a little bit of pyromania in them,” River said. His brothers laughed and nodded.
In their youth, the Mallery brothers built a campfire one day Roman said, and thinking they had put it out, left the scene. When the fire roared back to life, it was the Marion volunteer firefighters who responded.
Inspired and grateful, Roman, his three older brothers and their father made the decision to join on as cadets and later as committed volunteers.
As River and Roshua came of age, they too decided to follow in the family footsteps, gearing up to serve first for the Marion Fire Department and later for Creston.
At 18 years old, River said his first call happened to be a full-blown structure fire to which he and Roman responded together and arrived first on scene.
“We got there and just started knocking that thing in the teeth,” River said.
Later, River and Roshua entered their first burning building together with River on the nozzle and Roshua acting as the tool man.
“We went into that thing and the fire was just rolling over the top of us. And we just, bam, hit that fire and it was out,” River said. “It was a rush.”
The brothers agreed, however, that their love for the work goes deeper than an adrenaline rush.
“Super exciting, super thrilling to be able to go out and do that, but then there’s those times when you wake up at 3 a.m. to go help grandma off the floor,” River said. “Yes, it’s no fun to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning, but somebody was having a worse day than I was, and I was able to make that day — the fire department was able to make that day — that much better for that person.”
Roman agreed that having grown up learning to give more than they received, and to look out for those around them, he and his brothers found a place and a purpose within the department.
“One of the things that I found very interesting when we came to Creston Fire, the values of Creston Fire were the exact same values we were raised with,” he said. “It seems like in a lot of ways, Creston Fire is just an extension of who we are.”
“That bond that was preexisting grew stronger because we’re doing the same thing together,” Roshua added. “Having that firefighter pride definitely is something that all of us can relate on and we can be a part of.”
Having grown up learning from and leaning on each other, Roman said their connection has not only helped them build similar relationships with other firefighters in their department, but also given them a unique advantage when working together.
“When we go camping, when we go hunting, when we go Sheetrock someone’s house, whatever it is we do, we automatically roll into our own positions,” Roman said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we roll with it very well.”
One of the biggest advantages to working with his brothers, Roman said, reveals itself on the hard days.
He referred to an unattended death call that came in during his son’s sixth birthday party. The residence wasn’t far from where he and his family were celebrating, so he and River hopped in the car and arrived first on a grisly scene.
An hour after arriving, the brothers cleared the scene following an empty ambulance and a hearse. Back at home, where their families were still celebrating with games and sweets, the brothers sat in the car for a moment to decompress.
“It was kind of an interesting moment, and that’s where having your brother there for those calls, I think it does make us stronger together. I think it shows that those types of situations aren’t going to break us but continue to make us stronger,” Roman said.
Beyond the three brothers, the Mallery family’s passion for giving back extends throughout its members.
River’s wife, Laurel worked as an EMT with the department for years before opting to stay home with their infant son, and she now continues to support the team through planning and volunteering with the annual Creston Auction alongside Roman’s wife, Caitlin.
Several of the other Mallery siblings also devote time to help with the auction and other events for the department each year.
“All of us, we go to the department putting ourselves out there, and that is not only accepted but encouraged,” Roshua said. “We don’t show up trying to see what we can get from the department. We try to give to it, and in turn, we create within ourselves a greater identity.”
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.