One of the greatest things about the fire service is the friendship and “family” that develops out of the time spent with people who in all other professions would simply be ‘co-workers’. I’ve been working 24 hours a week (sounds better than 1 day) for almost two and a half years at the Cordelia Fire District. I love it, and I love the people I work with. It would be untrue to say that I consider the entire department “family” or even “friends”. Cordelia FPD is a volunteer department with a reasonably high turnover. Often I barely get a chance to even meet some of my fellow firefighters. Don’t get me wrong; guys are not getting fired, they’re getting hired. We lose guys all the time to full-time, paid departments and because we all work different days of the week, we often don’t see or meet one another until a large event such as a fundraiser or large wildland fire.
Bringing it back to my point, I do have a regular crew that I work with every week. Our shift is the same day of the week, every week, and when you spend 24 hours a week with a group of guys, you get to know them really well. My crew and I are very close and I can tell you that we have each others back under any situation. In a month, we’ll all be going to our Company Officer’s wedding, and we’ve been talking about a Vegas trip, etc., etc… We’re brothers, but in different kind of fraternity. There is a very real kinship that develops between a crew. It’s not perfect either. We all have our quirks, but you live with those things. It’s the combination of good, bad, (and a whole lot of ugly) that make a person who they are… and when you can appreciate that total package and love that person for all they are, you’ve got a brother (or sister).
When this happens with a crew it’s a beautiful thing. A cohesion builds, molds and adapts to become a smoother and more efficient operating machine. Firefighters who know each others strengths and weaknesses, and who perform faster and more effectively because they don’t have to speak as many words to coworkers (because they know what each other is thinking) or check to see that other tasks are being done correctly (because they’ve trained on it before), can be more effective in their own jobs. When this point is reached, you’re on solid ground, and that’s when things get fun.
This camaraderie in the fire service extends from life in the firehouse, to daily training, to EMS and emergency calls with your crew, but it goes further than that. When I was first getting started, I wasn’t so conscious of the fire and EMS personnel around me. Now, I can’t look anywhere without seeing them. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly it seems like everybody else is driving the same vehicle as you.
I drive down the street and it seems every car I see has either a firefighter license plate or a sticker in the back of their windshield with a Maltese cross for fire, EMS or a related service. Not only does it make me more aware and concerned about my own driving for the sake of my colleagues around me, but I also feel safer. I guess just knowing they’re there allows me some reassurance as I watch other drivers texting.
Even online, this website gets plenty of spam as I suspect most sites do, but I also get to meet and be made aware of so many other great websites and resources available online. Just yesterday I received an email from a fire comrade in San Diego who is also trying to extend his reach as a brother and friend to those of you who are looking to become or grow as firefighters. His website focuses on firefighter training, and has an incredibly thorough collection of information for anybody interested in getting into a fire academy and ultimately the fire service in America. Remember, my site only focuses on California.
Ultimately, the point I wanted to make here is that there is a lot more to the fire service than merely fighting fires and operating fire engines. The real experience of being a firefighter is the brotherhood, the comradeship and the family that you earn through the blood, the smoke and the soot. This is the real reward.