I have wanted to be a firefighter since birth. I crawled out into the delivery room and advanced the umbilical cord down the hallway. Twenty-Five years later, the Chief pinned a badge on my chest. I went into my first day of work, cooked my new crew breakfast, didn’t go to any fires and found myself cleaning the Senior Man’s fart art off the toilet bowl by the afternoon. While I was in that bathroom, do you know what I was thinking? “I can’t believe it! I have the best job in the world!” That was and still is the level of pride I have in being a firefighter.
Pride doesn’t just make firefighters great janitors. When I was responsible for the irons, I spent each shift cleaning and sharpening those tools. After enough shifts and enough cleaning sessions, THE irons became MY irons. So, when the Day came that a captain looked at me and said “take that door,” I felt like a proud father. Pride not in myself but in my tools that I spent so much time caring for.
Another story of caring for tools comes from a night that we were the third due Engine to a working fire. As we arrived on scene, the incident commander called for us to bring a saw up to the A-side. I wondered how it was possible that no other company had thought to bring a saw to a garage fire. As we approached I realized, it wasn’t that there was no saw. The saw they had wasn’t working. I watched my partner pull the cord on our saw and I had no doubt that she would start right up. I couldn’t tell you today which technique he used to cut the overhead door, which company had the bad saw or even the address of the fire. I can tell you that OUR saw worked flawlessly.
As with anything in the fire service, pride doesn’t start on the fire scene. Pride should be taking place on the training grounds during each and every drill.
About a year ago, my company and I participated in the “Pittsburgh Drill” as part of our annual company competencies. These skills were observed by the training lieutenant. For a number of reasons, this particular drill did not go so well that day. Although we were deemed “competent” by the training Lieutenant, we were not satisfied. The next shift, we went back as a company and repeated the drill because we knew that we were
better than we had performed. For those of you that don’t know, The Pittsburgh Drill is not an easy drill. Although our score on paper wouldn’t change, we were too proud to let it go.
As I finished writing the last sentence in the previous paragraph I had to step back from writing for a moment. I gave some thought to discussing the possible negative side effects of being “too proud.” I decided to leave it at this; pride should always be a positive characteristic. Pride should make you want to perform at your best and highest level at all times. As firefighters, this means making calculated decisions using quality risk assessment.
Pride runs deep in the fire service. Firefighters worked hard to earn the title and are not shy about what we do. Let that pride go further than wearing your t-shirt. Let pride make you a better firefighter when your head hits the pillow at night than you were when your feet hit the floor this morning. Keep learning and stay safe.
Andy Young is a Career Firefighter and Municipal Fire Instructor with a Combination Department in Upstate, NY and a New York State Fire Instructor. In addition, he is a Nationally Certified Fire Service Instructor and works for Vigilant Fire Service Training, LLC.