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By Brian W. CarterSentinel Staff Writer,Biko Poindexter-Hodge, Sentinel Contributing WriterJoy ChildsSentinel Contributing WriterThe Sentinel got up close and personal with Los Angeles City Fire Inspector, Michael Bernard Nealy and learned what it takes to be one of L.A.'s finest.Nealy grew up with a fireman in the form of his stepfather. His stepfather was working in one of two stations in the city that would allow Blacks to work in the fire department. Both of those fire stations were located on Central Ave."We visited the fire station on Sunday afternoons and on days that were not a busy workday," said Nealy. "Sometimes, we had family functions at the fire station or when they worked holidays, families came to the fire station since they couldn't come home."Nealy has done time in the military, air force reserved where he spent 6 years in active duty. He was also a fire- fighter in the air force. He also worked at the Ontario Airport for a period of time. Nealy later chose to go to San Bernardino because they had a medical unit. He did that for another 20 years and retired from that in 1999. In '91, he was deployed to Desert Storm. "Instead of going to the desert I instead went to Germany," said Nealy. "I didn't have to go to the desert. Mayor Bradley was still mayor at the time; at that point we were all worried about our house note and our kids. The military wasn't capable in pay. At that time Mayor Bradley and the council said, 'Give us your military check and we will give you a regular check.'" He used to be based in downtown City Hall East, in the fire prevention headquarters.We have different districts. He was recently on the west side of town, Westchester, Mar Vista, Playa Vista, Venice and Playa Del Rey, which was his district. Nealy worked in the public assembly unit and inspected restaurants, bars and all public gathering areas. "So I was typically one of the 'bad guys,'" said Nealy. "Where the clubs are overcrowded...we had to shut them down. I made a name of my own." The differences between fire station life and life as a fire inspector was made clear by Nealy. "As firefighters, you respond to emergencies and you live in the fire station 24 hours a day. You respond to all type of emergencies or anything that goes on in the fire department. Unlike the police department, which does a great job, they have a prioritized response."The fire department, you call for an emergency-we are out there. If it's an emergency, we deal with it. If it's not an emergency, we still deal with it but that's why I think that the fire department has a better PR rating than the police department." What he likes most about his job is helping people. "All my jobs have been with dealing with the public in one aspect or another," said Nealy. "So, in looking in that light, you are out there trying to help somebody because it's an emergency or you're trying to help somebody because you are trying to educate them on what's the most safe way to do something. It's always has been that way." Nealy stressed how dry the hiring pool is right now and that nobody is hiring right now. He also spoke on the requirements of the job and an applicant could expect. "You take a test. It's a generalized test. When I got out of the military, I took what is called an ARCO test. There are ARCO tests for different types of jobs. You can do that through the library." According to Nealy, it's a generalized test that shows the kind of things that different departments will present to applicants. Some of the subjects they test for: Mechanical English, mathematics and other things that you are supposed to learn in school."Every fire department will train you in the way that they want you to learn certain things," said Nealy. "They want to know that you have the basic knowledge to understand what you are going to learn. So, it helps that way. One requirement still today is a high school diploma. The more education you have, you just raise yourself up a little higher. Those kinds of things help you out. You don't have to be one because when you go through the basic training, they will teach you the EMT procedures. Everybody has to be certified to that level; if you learn more than that's a bonus position."After 30 years, Nealy retired from the Fire Prevention Bureau. He was honored with a dinner and presentation on Saturday, Feb. 5th at the Automobile Driving Museum. When asked what he plans to do with his retirement. "After 30 years...I plan on taking a few trips here operatically."