New firefighters and EMTs start on the job with a career or volunteer department almost daily. Some of these people breeze into the job and right back out. Others stick around and love the job for what it is – helping others in their time of need.
I started on the job seven and a half years ago as a volunteer at my local fire/rescue department. I was 16 at the time and was not planning on anything more than some volunteer service to look good on a college application. Not being familiar with the traditions or the Brotherhood of the fire service, I wasn’t prepared for the years to come. There comes a time in every person’s life where they find their niche. The one thing that makes them happy, where they feel at ease and they enjoy going to “work”. Firefighting is my niche. It doesn’t pay my bills, but it helps others.
I am beginning my second year as an operational officer at my department. I’ve been Deputy Chief (3rd in command) for just over 9 months now, after previously holding the rank of Lieutenant. As these “promotions” have been thrust upon me, I’ve had to do a lot of adjusting and learning. There are things as a firefighter that you just never think of until you’re place in a position of leadership. These past months have been challenging, and I feel as though the next year will be even more so as I embark on both recruiting new members and retaining the ones we have already brought on, as well as trying to change the training and readiness mindset of my department.
In my short (and long) 7.5 years on the job I have had both the pleasure and displeasure of incidents that will be branded into my mind forever. As the new year turned over, I decided that it was time for me to begin a form of a record of some of incidents, how they affect me, my crews and my family. For those out there contemplating getting into the fire service, I want to share these experiences as straight forward as possible to help them know what they are getting into. I also want to share what I’ve learned as a young officer, so that hopefully others that are in similar positions as myself can learn from my mistakes. Above all else though, all of my opinions belong to me and me alone.