What It Really Entails To Be The Senior Fire Fighter
You have just finished your probationary year and now are signed off as a rescue driver and have two other probationary firefighters underneath you. Or you are that six month firefighter riding backwards with a three month firefighter. You can be that five or six year firefighter medic senior to everyone else. So what does it mean to be the senior guy? Floating rights? Vacation rights? Transfer rights? Those are benefits of seniority, but the role of the “Senior Firefighter” I can assure you, is more than that. This department is extremely young with over eighty percent of the force less than ten years on the job. The definition and responsibilities bestowed upon the Senior Firefighter has been lost throughout the years. So, what does it really entail being the “Senior Firefighter?”
The senior firefighter in many departments across the United States is a firefighter at a station who has had some time and experience with the department and station and is well respected amongst his/her crew members. The senior firefighter leads the front in training and leads by example in helping cleaning around the station. Even though it is not a rank, it is a position to be respected. The person holding this role is a reflection of the Company Officer’s expectations and makes sure the flow of the fire house stays consistent even in the absence of the company officer. The senior firefighter helps keep the heat off the company officer and helps mitigate station issues before it gets to the CO or above. The senior firefighter displays competence and character. Obviously, this firefighter should have experience but with the amount of hiring and decreased amount of fires, experience may be hard to get. And experience is not the Holy Grail. It is what you do with that experience that counts. As a firefighter, a “Senior Firefighter” at that, must share the experiences, both the good and the bad, which they have learned over the years.
A huge virtue of the senior firefighter is that of humility. This person does not hold oneself above all else. These firefighters do not hold their knowledge to themselves or belittle everyone else when they are leading the training. Humbleness gets you everywhere in this world and will land the respect you deserve when you dish it back. Clean and scrub the toilets alongside the probie, throw the trash out, help check out the assigned rigs.
I cannot stress enough that this job is inherently dangerous, yet our department has an obligation to train us to a certain standard. Knowing this and knowing you may only have two to three years on the job, it is up to you to continue training and taking classes. And I do not mean just your pump ops and fire officer classes. You got those classes? Kudos to you. It means you have taken initiative to further educate yourself to promote to a supervisory role. But while you are still a firefighter, I suggest taking a fire fighter survival class, a truck company operations class, forcible entry, extrication, engine company operations classes, etc. Any class that is hands on and help master the craft will make you a better firefighter. The internet is also a wonderful tool, with multiple firefighter training websites and You Tube being a wonderful tool. Just remember to go out and do hands on practice. Practice by yourself, master the craft, and then pass it along to the new rookies coming along. It can very well save both of your lives.
The Senior Firefighter is the true definition of PRIDE and OWNERSHIP. Properly groomed, uniform is pressed, shoes are shined. The Halligan Tool is finely tuned; the axes, mauls, and hooks are wrapped with the fire house’s colors. The engine and rescue are washed regularly and waxed quarterly, all this because the senior firefighter sees it that it gets done and leads by being the first to wash or wax. The hose beds are all bedded and dressed properly with nozzles free of obstructions and set at the correct gpm setting. These individuals represent their fire house on and off duty, through actions and values.
As you can see, the senior firefighter has many a tasks and roles to play. They are a: coach, mentor, listener, work out partner, non-commissioned officer, friend, and above all, the one that helps maintain the safety of the crew.
One of the biggest attributes is being well versed about the job and its traditions and has a lot of love and passion for the job. A department this size, with the amount of personnel hired within the last ten years, it is hard to get a seasoned 20 year veteran. If you fit as the senior firefighter with less than five years on the job, ask yourself: Are you as good as a firefighter you are supposed to be? Are you able to perform all aspects of the job efficiently and effectively according to your scope of practice? Are you training every day? Are you mentoring those underneath you? Are you yourself seeking mentorship and learning from those who came before you? Are you taking classes to better your craft? Are you making sure your partner and you see eye to eye and can anticipate each other’s moves on the fire ground? All that is part of being the Senior Firefighter.
I LEAVE YOU WITH THESE LAST FEW WORDS:
BE SEEN AS THE SENIOR FIREFIGHTER BECAUSE OF YOUR ACTIONS, NOT THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU HAVE ON THE JOB. LIVE THE JOB. LOVE THE JOB. BE THE JOB.
Stay low ya’ll.
This firefighter on the bottom is Firefighter Joseph Angelini Sr. of FDNY’s Rescue 1. He was the Senior Man of the Company. He perished at the age of 63, yes that is correct: 63 years of age on 9/11. At the time he was the oldest active firefighter on the force. Firefighter Angelini was known to be out on the bay every tour of duty maintaining the tools and cleaning the apparatus. He was always on “on the job” whether he was on duty at the fire house or off duty and happened to stumble upon an emergency. Joseph Angelini Sr. told a bunch of his coworkers he did not know what to do when he would be forced to retire the next year at the age of 65 because for over 40 years, the fire service is all he knew. He was a true example of what it meant to be the Senior Firefighter.