Fire Buyer talks exclusively to Caleb Holloway, Deepwater Horizon explosion survivor, to discover why he chose a career in the fire service
How would you describe your time working on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig before the catastrophe?
The rig was like a home away from home. Everyone from day one showed incredible respect and was so genuine. I didn’t expect what I found when I got out there – it was more like a community. I still remember the first day that I got on the rig, I was amazed at how clean and big it actually was. The company I worked for before was a small and personal company and not as well-maintained as the Deepwater Horizon, so I wasn’t used to all the high-tech machinery.
You saved the lives of some of your team at Deepwater and continue to save lives in the fire service. Can you tell us how you adapted/managed to navigate these extremely difficult situations?
The night of the actual blowout in the catastrophe – that was the first time I’d really been faced with something like that. My mind immediately went into survival mode. When you experience chaos, your mind and your body are trying to comprehend what’s happening. That night it was about one thing – survival. Doing whatever I could to try to get to my team. That’s what I wanted – to get to my crew. Along the way, we found other people on board, scattered and who needed help. All of that was unplanned.
Now, as a Firefighter I’m trained to do that. I am trained to expect the ‘crazy’ to happen when we go on calls as that’s what we’ve signed up to do. It doesn’t catch me off guard as much, and I’m more mentally prepared. I have heightened awareness, more focus and know that anything can happen at any time. That’s the biggest thing.
You have earned the Firefighter commendation medal and other awards to date. How has your experience impacted your career?
Teamwork is a huge part of my firefighting career. It’s something that I carried over from my experience at the Deepwater Horizon. On the rig, we had such a great relationship with each other and I knew whatever I did beyond that, teamwork was something I would cherish forever. I knew that I was going to take that with me to my next adventure in life.
In firefighting, the brothers that I have on the truck don’t replace the experience that I had with the Deepwater Horizon crew, but it does bridge the gap. I took the rapport and teamwork skills from the job on the rig and applied them to the emergency services sector. With the commendation medal, there was a particular call where we rescued two women out of a house fire and we had a plan in place and everybody was clear on what they were supposed to do. It was both preparation and teamwork that led us to receive that award, and also I received the exceptional duty award.