If you don't like it, get out
I have been in the fire service for 31+ years and have friends, Brothers and Sisters from all over, from our first due mutual aid communities to overseas. There is one thing we all have in common besides the love of the job…. it seems we all have our malcontents.
To these firefighters, whether they are volunteer, paid on call or career, everything is a joke at the firehouse. They always put down their department, making statements such as “the place is a joke run by jokers”, yet they do nothing and offer nothing to help change things and actually prefer the status quo, because it is far easier to whine, complain, gripe, kvetch and bitch about problems than it is to work towards a solution to solve them.
When the training division sets up a schedule of drills to go over the basics the replies are “Do they think we are @#$%^&! probies?” or “What? They expect us to come in for training twice a month? I didn’t volunteer to do that!”
The captain in charge of the house mentions that one group isn’t keeping up with the housework, “Well, yesterday’s group forgot to empty one of the recycle bins, so it can wait until they can come back on duty”.
The lieutenant wants to take her crew out for district familiarization because there is a new condo complex being built and she wants to see the materials being used in its construction, “She’s breaking our balls, doesn’t she know the ball game starts in an hour?”
The chief calls someone out about not wearing the uniform properly, “He’s being a jerk off”.
The deputy calls in the people on his group to deal with a few issues before it causes problems, “He’s picking on us again”.
The senior man on the company pulls the ‘know it all’ probie aside to give him some friendly advice, “What does he know? He never went through the academy like I did” or “When is that old bastard going to retire?”
Is wearing the uniform of the day properly or doing the simple things that are required in the station going to make someone a better firefighter? Probably not, but things have to start somewhere. This is a job where you have to take things seriously. Sure there is time for laughs, good natured ribbing and down time, but anything we as firefighters do in this job is a direct reflection on not only our departments but the fire service in general.
Why train on the basics? Well, you just might pull up to a job and find someone hanging out of a window with heavy smoke pouring out behind them. The space between the building on fire and the next house is narrow and you’ll have to do a beam raise. You may be assigned to drive the pumper for the tour to cover a vacancy. Knowing how to engage the pump and knowing what nozzles and how many feet of hose are on the preconnected attack lines can help in setting proper pump pressures. Someone may know all of the layouts of the apartment buildings in their first due area, but what if they are dispatched to a district other than their own? Getting everyone out of the dayroom and out learning their second or third due districts can help determine what line to stretch and how much line to stretch. Knowing the construction types can make the difference between everyone going home or leaving the fire scene in an ambulance or hearse.
You may or may not get along with everyone you work with, but when the bells start ringing and the alert tones go off, professionalism should not only expected but demanded. We preach brotherhood and sisterhood but it is high time that everyone practices it; in the firehouse and on the calls, not just at firefighter funerals.
If and when the day comes that your number is up and you are killed in the line of duty, the brothers and sisters right next to you may end up suffering the same fate. I am sure that they do not want their name on a memorial plaque or t-shirt with someone who thought the job was a joke, never giving a crap about the job or their fellow firefighters.
Ron Ayotte Ron Ayotte is one of four Deputy Fire Chiefs with the Marlborough Fire Department, Marlborough, Massachusetts. Ron began his career with the MFD in November of 1981, was promoted to Lieutenant in November of 1988, Promoted to Captain in August of 2000 and was promoted to Deputy Chief in 2006. Ron’s responsibilities at the MFD include incident command, communications, plans review, inspections and training. Ron also works per diem in the Support Services division at the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, working support for various Academy programs, including Recruit training, Call/Volunteer training, Certification and LNG-LPG firefighting training. Ron’s writings and musings can be seen at Chief Concerns.