Firefighter turns to skydiver in free time
By Andrea Bennett, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

ONTARIO - When he isn't fighting fires or saving the ill and injured, he's 13,000 feet in the sky - soaring above cities, mountains and even clouds.
Yet Rich Grimm is no comic-book superhero.

An Ontario firefighter and emergency medical technician since 1984, Grimm is just an avid "jumper" who started his company, Tsunami Skydivers Inc., for thrill-seekers like himself.

Grimm, 47, said he was vacationing in Belize six years ago when he first came up with the idea to hold his annual "Boogie in Belize."

"`Boogie' is a word we use in skydiving for a gathering of a bunch of jumpers for a week or so," said Grimm, who has made almost 4,000 jumps since he started the sport in 1991.

"When you're in free fall over the island, it's just spectacular," he said. "It's probably one of the most beautiful places in the world."

Each year, Grimm takes a group to Belize for the good, old-fashioned fun of leaping out of a plane.

While there, he gives away supplies to schoolchildren and medical equipment from the Ontario Fire Department to emergency authorities on the island.

Grimm insisted he's hooked on the sport because of the friends he's made in the skydiving world - not necessarily the adrenaline.

"It's a rush, but it's just a fun thing to do," Grimm said. "You just kind of step into vast openness and hear a lot of wind. You don't have much of a sensation of falling, unless clouds are going by you."

Grimm said he jumped a few times in 1980, but decided to stop because the bulky, military surplus gear skydivers wore then didn't make him feel all that safe.

After the equipment and gear evolved into the hi-tech, safety-engineered versions used today, Grimm said he and several other firefighters went on a jump.

"I was hooked," he said. "I got my skydiving license in about four weeks after that because I loved it so much."

Although he says he tries to make about 200 jumps a year, Grimm said he doesn't see the activity as risk-taking.

"Fighting fires is more dangerous by far," he said.

Grimm, who will retire from the department in three years, plans to continue his passion long into old age.

But for now, it's ensuring public safety by day and jumping in his off-time.

And with the regular stressors of his day job, Grimm said skydiving is kind of like his therapy.

"If you don't jump for a couple weeks, you start missing it and get the urge," Grimm said. "Every once in a while, my wife'll send me to the drop zone if I start getting cranky and I haven't jumped in a couple weeks."