Who do I want to be? A question we have all asked ourselves at one point in our lives. At a very young age, I focused on playing baseball and being a firefighter like my dad. I loved baseball with a passion and grew up watching the New York Yankees with my dad as a little kid. I grew up wanting the best of both worlds, being able to play baseball for the Yankees and be a firefighter for the FDNY at the same time. I soon realized as I got older that I couldn’t have the best of both worlds. I had to come to a point in my life where I had to choose what I wanted to do with my life. At 18 years old and about to graduate high school, it’s not easy figuring out what you want to do. I was fortunate enough to have amazing parents who raised me right and taught me how to be a man of God.
I spent my whole life going to church every Sunday and even going to youth group every Wednesday night. I know in the fire service religion is a touchy subject and can cause controversy among a lot of the guys and gals at the station. Everyone has their opinion in life, and that’s what makes the power of decision-making so great, we get to choose what we want to believe in and do with our lives. Many people believe there is a God, and many people don’t. I believe there is a God, and I believe he sent his son Jesus Christ on this earth to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven. I also believe God has a plan for each of our lives and opens doors of opportunity for us each and every day. It’s up to me to have faith and trust in Him to guide me through my journey in life.
When I graduated high school, I had the choice of going to college and playing baseball, or start my career in the fire service and follow in the footsteps of my father. It wasn’t an easy choice for me; I spent many days praying and asking God what He would want me to do. That summer, I spent a lot of my time doing ride time with my father as an Explorer. One of the last fires I ran with my dad that summer was a fully involved office building that was next an abandoned warehouse. Even though it was a “surround and drown” type scenario, I knew from that moment that this is what I had a love for in my life. It’s like God set a fire in my heart, a burning passion to serve and help others in my community. From that moment on, I made it a commitment to strive and be the best firefighter/paramedic God would want me to be.
Fast forward four years later and I’m now a Firefighter/Paramedic with a great fire department, went to college to get my Associates Degree and now I’m working on earning my Bachelor’s Degree. God has provided for me in my life, and I will always be grateful for the many opportunities He has given me. At 22 years old, I am still very young and have a lot to learn and experience. There came a low point in my life, where I was angry and frustrated with how my life was turning out and I stopped putting my faith and trust in God. I started questioning myself and even wondered if this career was right for me, or if this was even the path God wanted me to go down. I lost all hope and at one point gave up. Then all of sudden God always finds a way to to give you reassurance and to tell you that He is with you and has never left you. Through friends, family, church and my amazing girlfriend, I was able to see and realize how great God is and how He had made me stronger. He restored my hope and confidence and gave me life again. I felt like a new man, and I felt a new fire restored in my heart.
Being 22 and still young, I don’t have a lot of advice or experience to give. If there’s one piece of advice I have, it’s don’t give up finding what your calling is in life. I don’t know exactly what God has planned for the rest of my future, but I do know He wants me to be the best firefighter/paramedic that I can be. He would want me to show His love to others in their time of need. For those that are still unsure what the future holds for their lives, don’t give up on searching for an answer. Even if you believe or don’t believe in God, there is a plan for your life. Someone is looking after you all the time. He loves you and cares about you, even when it seems like the rest of world is crumbling around you. He will show you the plans for your life, and He will lead you down the path that will bring joy and great success for your life.
I’ve only been on the job for four years; one year as a volunteer firefighter and three years as a paid firefighter. In my book, I am still a rookie firefighter, even though there are eight probationary firefighters underneath me. I still have a lot to learn before I even consider myself a senior firefighter. I was lucky enough to have grown up in the fire service as a kid watching my dad and seeing how things should be done the right way. I was raised on how you would say, the “Old School Mentality”. Everyone is, “Sir” and “Ma’am”. Respect your elders, treat people and others with respect, and always help others when you see that they may need help. The same can be applied to the fire service. As a probationary firefighter, respect the senior firefighter and your superiors. Address them as “Sir”, or “Ma’am”, or FF Smith, or Lt. Smith. Treat your senior firefighters and superiors with respect, and listen to what they have to say. Always be involved with your crew and lend a hand when your crew is working on something in the station, even if you don’t know how to do it. This is how you learn by watching others and seeing how they do things. As a green, brand-new probationary firefighter with no fire background, it can be hard to know exactly what to do.
This would be where a good, quality senior firefighter, steps in and shows him/her the ropes. As a senior firefighter, show them what their responsibilities are each day they come onto shift. Show them how to take pride in their station by making sure everything is clean and presentable. If the public walks in, or a chief comes by the station, they can see that we’re not just a bunch of lazy slobs who sit on the recliner all day and watch Netflix. Show them how to take pride in their truck by cleaning all the tools, making sure the hose is loaded the proper way, making sure the nozzles and ladders are clean and in good working order. Show them how things run correctly within the department by going over the SOG/SOP’s and how certain paperwork gets done properly, how reports are written, etc.
Go over the unwritten rules of a probationary firefighter such as:
1. last one to eat, first to clean the dishes.
2. make sure all the chores are done promptly.
3. last one to bed, first one to rise.
4. make sure the station is secure at night.
5. arrive an hour before work so you can settle in and get ready to work before everyone else.
6. have the newspaper and coffee ready before everyone wakes up.
Remember, as the new guy on the block, there is a lot to be expected in your first year. First impressions mean everything. It’s how you present yourself that’s either going to make you a great firefighter, or a firefighter everyone regrets hiring. If you don’t know how to do something, ask your senior man, if he can’t help you then move through the chain of command. Always admit your faults and never try to hide them, it will only hurt you in the end and no one wants someone at their station that can’t be trusted. But more importantly, remember that this is the best career in the world and that you’re in this for something much greater than the money or benefits you may get. Always do your job, wear your department uniform with pride and stay away from the sour, negative people who want to tear their department down because they can’t get their way. As the new guy on the block, never be discouraged if you’re with a bad crew. We have all been there at some point in our careers; it’s up to you to do the right thing and not fall into the trap they have set up for you. Stand up and show them how great this job is, because it is the best job in the WORLD!
Growing up, I got to see what the fire service is really like. I can remember my first ride in a fire truck with my dad when he was a Lieutenant. I remember the adrenaline rush that I felt as my dad would blast the Federal Q, and drive me around the block. The feeling that I can’t wait till I’m older, and I get to sit backwards and go to a fire one day. I will never forget that awesome feeling that I had inside of me that day.
As I grew older, I joined the Fire Explorers when I was 14. My love for the fire service grew tremendously. I always looked forward to going to every Thursday night meeting and getting to learn about the fire service, and how it began. I didn’t only learn how to operate the tools, flow water, do a search, or run EMS calls. I learned about the brotherhood. What an awesome feeling it was to know that I have a second family that is always there to support me. A family you can come talk to when there are problems at home. A family you can have fun with and spend time with each other’s families and kids. And most importantly, a family that will always have your back at your worst moment in life. Growing up with my father in the fire service and being an Explorer with the same department he was at, I was able to see how a brotherhood was really supposed to be.
As I graduated high school and moved onto fire school, I was able to establish a greater brotherhood with my classmates of Class 1102. Sharing memories together, constantly studying, and going through the toughest parts that fire school had to offer. After graduating fire school and getting hired on the job, I started noticing a change. The brotherhood didn’t seem to all be there. I noticed that some people only want this job for the money, and not for the love of the job and helping others in their community. I also noticed that some of our own brothers and sisters don’t even care about each other. It’s sad to think where the fire service started and where it’s at today, when it comes to the fraternity of the fire service. It’s like we are one giant soap opera, just one
issue after the other. People always complaining about policy and procedures, brothers and sisters talking about other brothers and sisters, and even going behind each other’s back’s and back-stabbing one another. I started to become sick to my stomach when I started seeing what was really going on and it saddens me to see that it has come this far.
Brothers and Sisters,
It’s time to wake up and realize what this career is really about. This isn’t just some job you come to because of the money and the benefits. This isn’t a job where you can come to work and cause mischief and turmoil amongst each other and tear each other down. This is a LIFESTYLE, a CAREER, that is much bigger than some “soap opera”, or some job that you think you’re getting great benefits from. When you choose this profession you better be all in, or nothing. This is a career, a lifestyle, that you live day-in and day-out and devote a third of your life too. Come into work and love to be where you’re at. Love this job and train to become the best at your profession. If professional athletes can train every day to become good at what they do and love their job at the same time, then so can we. We have to train like a professional athlete and become better every single day and not just sit around on a recliner and hope you’ll do it right when the public really needs you. Ignore the Soap Opera, ignore the negativity, ignore the ignorance that people have towards this career and become the 1% who will go out and make a difference in the fire service and show others how great this career really is. Join the movement and take pride back in your station and your career. Show the weak and broken that this is the best job in the WORLD!
– Christopher Intartaglio