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Old 03-21-2006, 06:11 PM   #1
Kevin Roddy
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Hey, guys. I've been considering a career in firefighting and I know there are a few on here, so I'd like to ask your opinions on some stuff.

- What made you decide to become a firefighter?
- What do you like most about your job?
- What do you like least about your job?

Not limited to that, anything you can tell me is great. Thanks!

- Kevin
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Old 03-21-2006, 07:07 PM   #2
Dan Snyder
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Kevin, you've just asked a book and I'm a slow typist. If you want PM or email me and I'll reply with a phone number. Call.

Short versions:
1) Backed into the job. I Never realized that I was made to do this until I was almonst 30! Dove in. Interestingly, have been a climber for 20 years, a bold lead close to your limit is EXACTLY the same place mentally as going into a good fire.
2) The camerraderie, the commitment, working HARD with my hands and mind, laughing hard, busting asses, the self-discipline and determination of some truly tough bastards, teamwork, integrity, the can-do "I will make a solution" "be there when you need me" attitudes.
3)The opposites of the above. Calls where they're talking to you when you arrive and aren't when you leave. Calls involving kids.

A Henry Rollins quote starts "The Iron never lies to you..." At its best the you could substitute the Brothers/Sisters for Iron throughout that entire quote.
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Old 03-22-2006, 07:32 AM   #3
Steven Stackpole
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Kevin
I share some similarities with Dan, but also differ in several key areas.
Like Dan, I backed into the job. I'm a second generation firefighter, and if you look at the list of firefighters killed on 9/11, you'll see a cousin of mine.
Truth is I never really knew anything else. I have 14 yrs on the job, with 28 yrs experience. I've served in several areas, from Incident Safety Officer, to Rope and Confined space rescue technician/instructor to critical incident stress debriefer.
Like Dan, I also climb, but unlike him, fighting fires simply doesn't excite me anymore.

Was I "made" to do the job, like Dan?? Who knows? I know I'm good at what I do, so I try to take some pride in that.

The camaraderie that Dan speaks of, frankly, I find it overrated. Sorry fellas.

Kevin, that could very well be a reflection of the department that I'm with, or my own personality. I demand a lot of myself, as well as those I work with.

The last point that Dan makes, I couldn't agree with more.
Bad things happen to good people, regularly, and on a random basis. Also, if you do any work involving with the Police, mans inhumanity to his fellow man, will shock you. I've tried to take comfort over the years by finding some sort of satisfaction in helping people, but the truth is, there is little satisfaction to be had in pulling dead bodies out of cars or burnt buildings. After awhile, you just want to go into work, do your shift, and not turn a wheel. Eat, workout, and go home.
But then again, that could just be me.

Does anyone remember Swissair, Flight 111, that went down over Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia a few years ago. 229 people dead.
I went out there a few days after it occurred to help in the recovery, and to assist in the Critical incident Stress debriefing that were required.

Sorry if this ran on a bit, but it became somewhat cathartic.
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Old 03-22-2006, 05:42 PM   #4
Dan Snyder
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Kevin, as Steven mentions where you work, who you work with, and what you bring to the table will make all the difference. You will likely spend as much (or more) time with the brothers/sisters than you do your own family (I'm in the firehouse roughly 110 24-hour shifts per year). I am fortunate to be part of a department culture that is on the whole very positive and supportive and who I do consider to be an "extended" family. Depending on how motivated you are (if you decide to do this) you could receive several offers. Evaluate and choose carefully, 20 years is a long time to spend in a place hating where/who/what you do.
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Old 03-23-2006, 02:15 PM   #5
Peter Queen
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“What made you decide to become a firefighter?”

911 happened!!! That event really ****ed me off as an American and as a human being.:angry:
Standing around idle was no longer an option or luxury I dared to afford.


“What do you like most about your job?”

In the smaller town that I now live in I have developed a fondness for the simpler and a little more serene lifestyle. This was big change for me considering that I am originally from Washington DC. I wanted to give a little something back to my community so I felt that by joining the Volunteer FF in my town I could do just that. Having said that, I enjoy the fellowship and interaction that I have with my fellow firefighters. I enjoy the sense of sharing in a common goal geared towards keeping my town as danger free as possible. I enjoy the fact that this job ties into my sense of duty to my fellow men/women in my society that only few people outside the fire profession, military and law enforcement can truly understand. I am glad when we can arrive on the scene of a structure fire and bring it under control without the loss of life even if sometimes the property itself might be a total loss. I love getting to the scene of a horrific traffic accident and be able to extricate someone from their vehicle, by use of our hydraulic spreaders and cutters, in time to send them to the hospital before they lost too much blood or go into shock. I love being on our departments search and rescue team which, due to our intense training, allows me the opportunity to go into a burning building and rescue a fallen firefighter or a lost civilian. I love the annual parades that take place down the middle of our main street in the summer to celebrate our town’s history and so on. Giving out candy during the parade is a thrill also. In fact you could say that the list is endless.


“What do you like least about your job?”

Not getting to a scene in time enough to save a person from a fire, or traffic accident. More times than I wish to experience have I come upon the lifeless body of a victim. Being big does not always help, when it is me who is called to help lift the still body of a person up into a body bag and into the back of a coroner’s van. Time never ever washes away the memory of a 10 year old who is lying lifeless in your arms and you are sweating and fighting like hell to try and bring them back to life. Being a father myself, that one hit really deep. Thank God I experienced that particular situation only once so far. Oh, yeah, there are many tragedies that we fire fighters have to face but yet somehow we stubbornly carry on. Because not trying at all is the worst guilt trip ever.

Don't let me bring you down becasue I could never see myself wanting doing anything else on the side with this much of an emotional rollercoaster.

"where you work, who you work with, and what you bring to the table will make all the difference."

I have to also agree with that. This job is definately not for everybody. I have to laugh when police officers, who fight against all sorts of earthly scum in various life threatening situations, tells me that I am crazy for running into a burning building. :lol:
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Old 03-23-2006, 04:02 PM   #6
Garrett Smith
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I'm curious, what are the typical length of service obligation/contracts that firefighters sign, if there is one?
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Old 03-23-2006, 04:34 PM   #7
Dan Snyder
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There's not a "length of service" contract per se, though new [voluteer] recruits in our Dept sign a contract to serve for 2 years to "pay" for their fire academy training.
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Old 03-24-2006, 09:09 AM   #8
Peter Queen
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Dr. G: On our Volunteer fire department, we have guys and ladies that have served for over 25 years. One of our oldest member is over 70. He can still go out on ambulance calls and fire calls with the rest of us.
Albeit, he is not as involved as he use to be( more of a support role) but he still gets around the emergency scene like a 30 year old to aid in secondary support operations. I guess being ex-military helps with his motivation.
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Old 03-24-2006, 02:37 PM   #9
Garrett Smith
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I'm a bit confused.

I keep hearing you guys mention "volunteer". Are most FFers "volunteers"?

I mean, I'm assuming that you all go to work and get paid, just like I do. No one calls me a "volunteer" physician.

Is there a sigificant difference between a "volunteer" and a paid FFer, or are they one and the same?

I'm very curious as I may be going out for the department next year (testing starts in January).
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Old 03-24-2006, 06:41 PM   #10
Dan Snyder
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Garrett, good questions! When you're in it you don't realize what is known to you isn't so well known to others.

About 80% of all firefighters in the nation are volunteer. That is they assist in the protection of their communities essentially for free. Most places have a pension that you vest in after 10 years or so of service. Most towns/small cities/counties do not have enough money or enough need (call volume) to have a paid fire department.

Larger cities obviously, have enough need. They have career departments. Call volume both in terms of fires/fire alarms, Emergency Medicine, and well, anything else that may actually be, or appear to be, an emergency to the 911 caller.

To further complicate things, my department is a "combination" department. We have both fulltime paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters. Our volunteers are almost totally composed of people who want to ultimately become career firefighters. Additionally we only hire those who have atleast a year of service with us. We get to know them very well in that time. It's an unusual system but it works for us.

Most volunteer departments in the nation (I would guess) have members that serve because they want to give back to their community. They work in the community and when their pager goes off they leave work or home and respond first to the station to get a truck and then to the scene.

There are more differences than that but I've rambled enough. Does that basically answer your question?
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