Tampa's elite first responders

First responders face danger whether they are firefighters, paramedics, or police officers-- but a select few are all three.

Tampa Fire-Rescue Captains Tim Hayes and Brian Eichholz are firefighters first, but are also classified as auxiliary officers for the police department. 

"We go to the auxiliary police academy and we're classified as auxiliary officers," says Hayes. "It was different says Eichholz. "You know, a little bit of inner rivalry between cops and firemen."

But those rivals team up on Tampa's SWAT team. Tampa was one of the first to incorporate paramedics into its Police SWAT team in 1987.

"Having the paramedic on the team and making entry is critical because sometimes the entries you make are deep inside a building," says Hayes.

He says that puts them in the best position to save lives. "Whether it's an officer, a victim, suspect or bystander," says Eichholz.

In Tampa they're called "tactical medics", a dozen elite firefighter-paramedics who have to stay sharp with all kinds of training, from firearms to water rescue.

"The underwater stuff can be really tricky because you don't have all the help down there," says Hayes.

Part of their training includes a simulated helicopter crash into the water. Part of which involves getting strapped into "the chair" that spins underwater. You have to remove your seatbelts and learn to swim to safety.

"It's not a natural thing to strap yourself into a chair and turn yourself over and get yourself out of that situation," laughs Eichholz.

As exciting as it is, they never forget the most important reason for doing what they do: "There's nothing better than making a difference in somebody's life and knowing you were instrumental in that," says Hayes.