Lessons Learned in a Volunteer Fire Station
Why are you here?
If you are a firefighter working in a volunteer station the question of why can be as important to your peers as the ability you have to contribute to the good fight. Some may disregard such a question and others may even get defensive about it. If you are one of those than I would strongly suggest you find another past time! The fire service is not about badges and pretty gizmo's. It is about helping our fellow man and woman the best we can. Every day people like myself and my dad put our lives on the line to help others, and the reality is we don't do it for a pat on the back or a praise from our peers, we do it because it is in us to help people! The trend today seems to be advancing up the of success with as little effort as possible. Let me say this is a trail to disaster. To often young upstarts are granted fire ladder officer positions just to crack at the first sign of a problem and this leaves the whole department up for scrutiny and in some cases loss of life and property. We can not afford this type of complication!!!
I see so many people who are merely on the fire department to say they are. They put fourth no real effort at anything other than telling people they are a firefighter. It boost the ego somewhat but at what cost? What are they sacrificing for their department? That is easy to answer. They sacrifice the departments ability to perform with perfection that is demanded of us in everything we do. Some people simply want to amass a stockpile of achievements on paper that look good on a wall or resume but reality is paper is just that. For the record if that paper caught fire would it matter, or would it matter that someone was there to put it out. Lucky for me this is not a huge issue with the two departments I am on, but I am reading every day about departments with these up and comers who focus on bragging rights.
The only bragging rights we should worry about is the ones who come from the people we serve. I know I pulled a crazy stunt when I ventured into a working fire to save a family's dog. This was slightly frowned upon but at the time I was led to believe this dog was a person. (The residents were slightly under the influence, and by slightly I mean Barney dancing on the lounge chair drunk!!!) I rescued a pug that was anything but happy to see me. The family were ecstatic that their beloved pet was alive and well. The fire department on the other hand was not so thrilled at my decision to go in after this animal. The fact is the fire was contained on the C side of the home and I was in the A side area. was my choose to go in merited? Maybe, maybe not but it was something I felt needed to be done for the family. I did not know it was a dog. Would I have gone in if I did. You are damned right I would have! There was no immediate danger.
What I am getting at is we are in this game to help people. Any time we feel that is not our priority we should stop. To many newcomers are out to get attention buy wearing their gear and dress uniforms all the time and by trying to approach the service like a ladder to the top. That ladder is important but climb it with respect and dignity! I would love to see more people in the service that are simply here to assist those in need with no regard to pats on the back and "that will do pig" antics. Did the family thank me for saving their dog. They did indeed. To this day they see me and hug me and say "thanks so much, we would have lost our baby if you had not done what you did."
We as firefighters really need to get back to where it started. The goal is to preserve life and property, not earn scout badges. The next time you put your turn outs on and those bunker pants are around your boots ask yourself, "why am I doing this?"
I am not saying being all about the accolades makes you a bad person. It truly doesn't. It makes you a bad firefighter though, and a liability to the service. I simply ask that if you are contemplating becoming a firefighter always remember why we do what we do. So much potential is wasted on looking for easy certificates and achievements when respect is earned on the fireground and in the classroom, not on a piece of paper. Thanks for reading.
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