Every station has them, maybe one ,or maybe a pack of them. They are the highly trained book smart firefighters that have no on-the-job experience to back-up the fancy sheet of paper they achieved. Sometimes they like to trade war stories that end with, “i was outside searching the yard for tools.” These are the people that like to go to training burns and melt their shield and the 20 Stickers off of there helmet. So really what makes them untouchable?
I’ve had the “honor” to experience a few of these so said masters of the fire service. These hotshot young guns of the fire service come straight out of the fire academy thinking that the little 64 hour class and 8 hour live burn makes them the best of the best and one of the seasoned guys. But when it comes to putting their money were their mouth is, they fail every time. Why is this and why are they still untouchable?
These people have the mindset that no matter what, they are better then everyone, and a belief that everyone is beneath them. They have a false sense of entitlement due to the fact they received a fancy sheet of paper that means nothing when you are just pushed along in a class without having to truly preform the tasks required. But what causes this mindset of entitlement? Is it an age thing? Is it a generational thing?
I can tell you now it is not an age thing. I’ve seen 40 year old grown men act like they are entitled to everything. I have also seen 18-19 year old’s that are grown responsible respectful and committed students tof the craft that never leave a page unturned. They work constantly to better their skills and brake the mold that is formed around the age difference in the fire service. But sadly, this is not always the case. Most of the time it is the young guys that bring those that earn their salt down in the fire service.
Signs to look for to see if you are dealing with an untouchable.
- They have done that and some no matter if they finished the fire academy yesterday. they have done more then you have in 30 years on the job.
- Brand New Helmet and shield with Burn marks and no true salt.
- I fight what you fear decals……
- They want to do it all and don’t want to go about it in the right steps.
How do we fix this? How do we deal with the so called untouchables? Now i’m not very sure but i can tell you from what I’ve seen they for the most part weed them selves out after awhile. Now my idea of fixing it would be making sure that new members are mentored by the right members and that they understand that this is not a little league baseball team not everyone gets a juice box and trophy. Earn your place in this amazing brotherhood and pay your dues. No free rides in the brotherhood!
Let me start this off with a small disclaimer: Not to offend anyone from the start i will state that my views are of my own and that we as a fire service should have the same view on the issues described below.
So, with that being said let us get to the cold hard reality of everything. We as a fire service are working with less then minimal staffing levels for all types of emergencies. But have we really settled or start scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to who we allow to protect our community and represent our departments in the eyes of the tax paying public?
All of us, as a fire service, both volunteer and career, see the lack of membership in the volunteer service. But why are we letting drug users or people with criminal records into one of the most trusted jobs in the world?
Better yet, why are we letting people get away with “the minimal standard”. When you look at training, the minimal standard is a foundation of which you build on. But what if you never build on it? Guess what? You die, plain and simple. The fire service is changing daily with new tactics and new technological advancements. Fire burns faster, hotter and with more force then it ever has. So why is the minimal standard accepted?
I’ll tell you why, in my opinion, the fact that officers and chief officers allow the minimal standard in all aspects of the fire service. If there was an issue 20 years ago that needed to be dealt with, it was handled right then and there. No sugar coating it or beating around the bush or hoping that issue just stopped on its own. Now days we have too many people that wanna just be a friend and not lead their membership into the right direction. Now if I’m wrong I’m wrong. But i know many officers that do these things and it leads to bigger issues down the road. So why don’t we fix it? Why let it fester and not only kill morale or the image of the department? So with that, lets look into why that person becomes a an officer? Was it to become a leader and lead his or her membership to one day take his or her job? Maybe it was for their ego and the simple fact that they can do what they want and have a nice white shirt and a title. Because that’s all it really is if you don’t lead your membership right?
Now you may ask why all of this? After seeing what people have deemed acceptable to post on the world wide web of their time in the fire service or about them selves I’ve wondered why are these people in the fire service? But most of all why do they think it is okay to disrespect the service I and many more love? Many are thinking, well how are they disrespecting it? Lets start with a lack of pride in both appearance and professionalism or living on the traditions that we as a service were founded on. Not learning from our brothers that made the ultimate sacrifice. We should be honoring them every time we get the chance by either training or remembering them. Why let our brothers pass away in vain?
Now that I’ve more then likely upset a few people i want to target those that go out of the way to better the fire service. Those that come into the fire house clean neat and in uniform with boots shined and matching. The guys that come in a get right to truck checks and start washing the rig before they are told to by the Captain or Chief. The ones that go to training classes or at least train on what they know so that they can better the craft. You men and women are the ones that make station pride what it is all about. If you are sitting here at this point still reading this then please take note because i was once like you. I thought that i did it all right and had the right mindset. Till some one came along and told me what i could be doing and what i should be doing that my friends was a leader. He never let me fail he never let me accept the minimal standard; He held me to a higher standard then most and still does even if we are both ranking officer together now.
The moral to this rant is to get you brothers and sisters fired up. Get you ready to accept nothing but all out effort and professional attitudes. As always remember that there is no place for unprofessional people and mediocrity in the fire service. Those that want better in your department set the standard in which you wish to have. If you live it and do it and not just preach it people will start to follow suit!
No matter how long you have been in the fire service, I’m pretty sure you have heard this one before; “The best thing an old firemen can teach a young firemen is how to be an old firemen”. That said, is the tradition of becoming the old fireman fading? Too often we see firefighters that want to climb the ranking ladder and not earn there street credit riding backwards. Being the old fireman is not a bad thing no matter what anyone tells you! I am by no means the old fireman, yet. But I have stepped up as a Lieutenant and senior man. I have started to pass on what i know by mentoring new firemen. It’s the handing down of fire department operational knowledge that helps hold the integrity of our mission together.
It doesn’t take much to become a mentor in the fire service. If you have an “all-in” attitude and the training to back your tactics then share your knowledge with those new guys. If you are ever selected as a mentor in your department then take it as an honor. Your leadership is placing the task of molding that new member in your capable hands. You are there to be their go-to-guy to teach them and show them what this service is all about.
Now that you have mentored a younger fresher member. What is next on becoming the old firemen? Early morning shift change talks over coffee?. Early and late night training operations? Encourage younger members on gaining not only class room training but using every emergency as a training opportunity. War stories of fires past and bizarre calls and the crazy solutions you invented to mitigate them all help create a picture and an expectation of what future calls may hold. Those are a few things the old fireman does to strengthen their members.
My hope is that after you read this that you think about how you can step up and mentor and help a younger fresh member of your fire department. If you do not open up the doors to a member and encourage his participation in the department then you can not complain when they never show up!
Sadly, you see the headlines all the time now; “Firefighter breaks in and spray paints (vandalizes) own fire station” or “Paramedic steals money from patient”, how about “Fire Chief lies about his education.” These are disappointing black-eyes to the fire and emergency services community. What some firefighters and EMTs do not understand is that whatever immoral or illegal act they do represents all of us!
When you are a firefighter the headline will never read “John Smith arrested for embezzlement” it will always read “Firefighter arrested for embezzlement.” The reason this happens is because Firefighters hold a position of public-trust, including volunteers. Nothing makes a headline more juicy than a firefighter breaking that trust. Of course we’re all human and we will slip-up from time to time. It’s important we carry ourselves with the integrity our title inherently possesses.
Likewise, the manner in which some firefighters and EMS agencies provide their services can be sub-par and even unethical. When a loved one hears about how you treated little momma jean. They are going to tell the whole community about how bad that EMS service or fire department operates. Not just you or that one person the whole operation looks horrible. The agency gets slapped with a label that could take years to rid away with due to one action of one individual.
Now what could that label mean? A cut in funding from city or county budgets? A large drop in donations? Decrease in community members willing to support the dept. Once you are labeled a sub-par unprofessional waste of taxpayers dollars, you will then catch flack from fellow agencies. One black eye from one member not doing their job can take a departments image and flush it right down the prevebial shitter.
Now lets take a step away and look at how a person can ruin their image or the departments image. Let us focus on the department erasing there own good image. When you have visitors at the fire station, is it clean? Are the trucks clean? Are you proud to call the station your home away from home? Does your stations roof leak? Do your engines start and run safely? Leadership, is it there? Do they do their job? If not and your equipment is not taken care of and people’s feet are not being held to the fire then the departments image will drop in the community. Just one of the many ways to lose the public’s trust! Show up and don’t put water on the fire, failed to make a search when it was safe to do so ,when there is reports of a victim trapped? As well, don’t just stand there and watch the house burn to the ground!
If you feel you do not have that perfect public image FIX IT! Hold community block parties or open house one day at the station! The more you involve the community the more outpouring of donations and community backing will follow!
After reading this are you or somebody you know or is your department giving the emergency services a black eye to all of us?
The West Lake Fire Department was founded in 1937 and was the first volunteer fire company in Millcreek Township. The department is comprised of two firehouses, Station 48 and Station 49. West Lake is one of four volunteer fire departments that operate in Millcreek Township. West Lake is the second busiest company in the township and third busiest in Erie County averaging around 1,500 calls for service annually, following the Erie Fire Department and West Ridge Fire Department. West Lake is 100% volunteer with approximately 50 active members.
WLFD is known best in the township as having the most pride within the fire service. Myself and Jordan Turner of West Med #2 Fire Company can attest too that. We went and looked at every aspect of pride we could find and this department has it! “It’s one thing that is drilled into us from day one” said Lieutenant Joe Bracalento – 8 year member of WLFD. We can tell that from just walking into the bay, from the station logo pressed into the bay floor to the clean rigs and well racked lines on the engine. You can tell this company has pride just from the road! The outside of the firehouse is another thing that showed itself to us. Fresh green grass mowed perfectly to fresh mulch. As well as the flags flying high. The community of Millcreek should be proud to call West lake for their emergencies.
Why? We had the chance to look over all of the well maintained rigs that WLFD has at station 48. Even after finishing their 5th call for service that day all the trucks were cleaned, well maintained, stocked and ready for the next call for service. Something that is hard to find in the volunteer fire service these days with the demands that are placed on volunteers. That is another thing that stood out to us. The fact that this company runs up to 100 plus calls a month and still has a nice clean station with very clean and well maintained trucks!
After meeting the Fire Chief and a few members from this station we were honored to take home with us a company tee shirt and the offer of returning and spending the day with the crew and sharing some fellowship. The brotherhood is strong in West Lake and so is the pride. If you are ever in the area check out the brothers at station 48! It’s well worth the stop!