JANESVILLE, Wis. — Janesville firefighter Christopher "Chris" Lloyd rescued a woman stuck in an elevator a few years ago.

The woman noticed the name on his jacket and asked if he was related to Gary Lloyd.

Chris responded that Gary, a retired Janesville firefighter, is his father.

The woman's face lit up, and she told Chris that his father had saved her life.

In 1974, Gary responded to an emergency call for a toddler who was not breathing.

When Gary arrived at the home, he found the child, who had turned blue.

Gary, one of the city's first paramedics, checked the toddler's airway and found that she had choked on a quarter. He removed the coin, started chest compressions and saved the baby's life.

"Those are beautiful things you never forget," Gary told The Janesville Gazette.

With any luck, the woman rescued by two Lloyds will never have to meet 26-year-old McKayla Gates-Lloyd, the third generation of firefighters in the Lloyd family.

Firefighters are known for embracing co-workers as a second family.

But it isn't often that a single family produces so many firefighters, with the potential of one more down the line.

Chris has a 15-year-old son, Evan, who has had his heart set on being a firefighter since age 9.

A lifelong passion

Gary Lloyd graduated from Janesville Senior High School in 1965 with no plans of becoming a firefighter.

He grew up on a farm and never forgot what his rural roots taught him: Help others.

"When my dad died, the farmers came to help us," Lloyd said. "When I got hired on the fire department, I realized that is exactly what the firefighters do. We come together to help where we are needed."

In 1969, the city built a new fire station on Crosby Avenue, and it hired nine new people, including Gary. He clearly recalls the day he started on Feb. 16, 1970.

Before he even walked in the door, Gary knew he would be a firefighter until retirement.

"It's a career that is part of your blood," he said. "It's part of your DNA."

Gary retired at the end of 1999 as a shift commander.

A big part of his job was developing community relationships.

"We have to let people know we are there for them," Gary said, "even when we are off duty."

One way firefighters do that is by raising money for charities. Since the firefighters union began hosting fundraising events, it has raised some $250,000.

A shining example

Chris remembers watching the fire truck race by the Lloyd home on Milwaukee Street and knowing that his father was aboard. He also remembers visiting his father at the station.

"I could smell the rubber tires and smoke from fires on the gear and tools," Chris recalled. "I never thought about being a firefighter."

After graduating from Parker High School in 1985, Chris thought of becoming a police officer. But Gary encouraged his son to consider firefighting.

While attending school for firefighting, Chris rode along with the fire department. On his first call, he witnessed a fatal car wreck.

"I remember watching everyone work," Chris said. "I knew I had found my niche, and there was no turning back."

He started with the Janesville Fire Department in October 1990. Previously, he had worked for the Two Rivers and Sheboygan fire departments.

"I still enjoy going to work, even though I will retire in July," Chris said. "I have zero regrets."

Chris has been a paramedic for 14 years.

He said the only downfall of working in his hometown is seeing people he knows on calls.

"When I saw my sister in a car wreck, I had to maintain my composure and be professional," Chris said. "You have to rely on your training, and you have to stay focused."

He was both pleased and worried when his daughter, McKayla, decided to follow in his footsteps.

"I remember seeing my dad at work," McKayla said. "I remember seeing my dad going by in the truck."

McKayla graduated from Parker High School in 2011 and did not know what she would do next.

Then she attended a fire science class and heard a motivational speaker.

"I came home and said, 'This is what I want to do,'" she said.

In 2015, McKayla was hired by the Edgerton Fire Department for a two-year internship. She worked 48 hours a week and went to school full time.

"I really loved the people I worked with," she said. "They knew I had minimal experience. They took me under their wing."

After several months on the department, she was called out for a woman having contractions.

"Delivering a baby in the back of an ambulance was kind of terrifying," McKayla said.

But later, the mother was "incredibly thankful."

McKayla became a paramedic in 2018 and has been a member of the Janesville Fire Department since April 2019.

Chris is pleased that his children want to carry on the firefighting tradition.

"Seeing McKayla at shift change in the mornings brings a smile to my face and makes me a very proud dad," Chris said.

On the job stress

Chris and McKayla recognize the tremendous stress they are under as firefighters.

Nationally, firefighters have a high suicide rate.

In 2018, firefighter suicides exceeded the rate of on-duty deaths by about 30% on average, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.

"I've had calls that have affected me," Chris said. "I remember them. There are some who never have issues, and there are others who have them early on in their careers."

A peer support group, which includes nurses and police officers, began a couple of years ago to offer help when firefighters need to talk.

"It's a very good program," Chris said.

Gary recalls traumatic incidents, especially those involving children.

When he worked, there were no support groups.

"We talked about things among ourselves," Gary said. "We asked each other if we could have done anything differently. The conclusion we came to is we did the best we could."

He emphasized how important it is to be compassionate and empathetic to families experiencing loss.

"It's hard emotionally when you lose your home and all your belongings in a fire," Gary said. "In the darkest days of their lives, they never forget when you are kind to them. Sometimes they came to the fire station years later to show their appreciation."

After being at a particularly bad fire, Gary often called home as soon as he returned to the station.

"The first thing you think about are your kids and whether they are safe," he said.

In spite of the danger and trauma of their jobs, none of the Lloyd firefighters have regrets.

"I can't imagine doing anything else," McKayla said. "I look at the (fire) trucks, and I can't believe that I get paid to do what I do. I have the best job in the world."

Gary is immensely proud to have made people's lives safer.

"I loved every day knowing we were there to make a difference," he said.

Even though he is retired, his heart remains with the firefighters.

"Every time I hear a siren," Gary said, "I say to myself, 'Be safe, guys and gals.'"