Disclaimers make me sad.
I am going to be painfully blunt on this one boys and girls, (imagine that!) so I am sure the feathers of vanity and the plumes of "is that 'bout me?" will most likely get a nice ruffling so let's go ahead and get this out of the way. This article is written with two central functions in mind. The first of which is to educate and inform firefighters of the dangers certain stereotypes can do to their departments.
The second is to entertain. It is not my intention to offend anyone with this writing nor is this text in any form or fashion about any one individual, group of individuals, or department in general and should not be taken as such. If the information gathered in this article offended you than I am truly sorry, not sorry that I wrote it, but sorry that you feel that way about yourself.
The Times They Are A Changing
As always it is a blessing to have you once again here in the Let's Talk Fire series of articles. The fire service has made one aspect of it's existence quite open, especially as of late. That aspect is just how much we are in the public eye. It is always growing and changing as new tactics and advancements are made. The river of change as we know it in the fire service is one of great speed and rapid swells, that is for sure.
Sadly there are still firefighters who refuse to dive into those waters of change. Sure, some of them wade in just far enough to keep that enormous river monster known as the NFPA off their backs while others casually row in on borrowed canoes, but others refuse to grow and adapt.
These are the folks who are concreted in the past, or as I like to call it stuck in stupid. These along with other firefighters who refuse to maintain a professional attitude, resort to petty in house ignorance, and act in ways not becoming of a firefighter all serve to create a negative image of what it is we do. An image that stains us in the eyes of the public we serve.
We all know them. The people you kind of want to put about 5 feet back on a 2 and a half inch line pumping 300 PSI with a nice attic nozzle on the end and just watch it beat them like a pinata at a Mexican birthday party. These cats come and go in the fire service and I assure you if you have not seen one yet just stick around and you surely will eventually. I want to inform you of 10 types of firefighters who are ripe for a nozzle beating. These stereotypes will destroy a department in a hurry.
10. Average Joe
Now first and foremost yes the service is full of what may be called average Joes. The guys who come from all walks of life, but to me anyone who seriously gets into this business and dedicates themselves to it are not average at all. I am speaking of the men and women who do it just because there is nothing better to do.
Joe is the guy who scraped through school with a C average, got a job that maintains as little responsibility as possible, and only does just enough to get by. We know that firefighting is not that kind of job. Just enough is never really enough. We are often called to go way beyond the just enough mark and even on some occasions enter into the I can't believe I am doing this zone.
Joe lacks the dedication and drive because he is not making an emotional investment in the task. For most of us firefighting is more than a job or a hobby. It stretches into a way of life. We start sticking decals on our cars, looking at tool sections of stores for ideas and we dedicate so much time to it that we lose our self in the craft. Joe is not that kind of guy.
The good part of Joe is there is some chance he will get to that point and fall in love with the service as some of us have already done.
JW looks good in fire swag!
9. John Wayne
This guy believes he is the only cowboy on this department. The John Wayne firefighter shares a great deal of traits with his namesake. As Mr. Wayne would run headfirst into a gun fight bullets a blazing our firefighter version will do the same.
They are always trying to find some logistic reasoning for making entry regardless of the dangers present. These are the guys who arrive on scene and demand an incident command position and if they are not granted it begin doing their own thing without ever asking for an assignment from the rightful IC. We know these types of firefighters as free lancers. Of course I do have other names for them but for the sake of censorship I will not be putting any of those here.
This is the type of firefighter who arrives and starts knocking out windows, or starts poking their heads into every opening in the house. He or she may get to the scene and without any reason or orders pull a second line and start spraying into the structure. If you have ever had one of these wild guns on your department you know they will backdraft a house, or cause un needed fire spread with their free lancing.
The worse part is in their beady little brains they feel they are the real hero and without them that fire could never have been controlled or put out. Ego is a great waffle but having one on the fire service is a big no no.
Hulk is not a good firefighter
8. The Incompentant Hulk
These are the firefighters that revel in their strength. They make every thing about how strong they are despite the lack of any other real attribute needed to be a successful firefighter. This guy will kick a door in even if it is not the one going to the burn structure. Probie stop flexing those twizzlers you call arms, geez!
They don't force doors with halligans, hell no, they use their heads. When it comes to car accidents who needs a saw, old Hulky boy will pull the door off with his bar hands sending nice little shiny shards of glass all over the real firefighters on scene all the while bragging about how far they can throw the damned door after it is removed. They will drag you out of a fire using the hose, even if you don't want or need to be dragged out.
The firefighter Hulk is just like the big green guy from Marvel Comics fame. he will throw all logic and training out the window for the opportunity to smash something. Now do not get me wrong I love these guys for carrying the fan or a generator for me. I just don't like having a ceiling fall on my noggin cause Hulk was trying to pull the porch off the structure.
Changes are Unavoidable
7. That's The Way We Used To Do It Guy
It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the old dog is stupid! I have always felt that second only to freelancers that this is the worse type of firefighter to have on any scene. These are the cats I refereed to earlier who are stuck in stupid if you will. They kick open doors, fog smoke filled rooms, and stick the nozzle through any opening in the house they can find never knowing what are who may be on the other side. Their argument is and always will be, that is how we used to do it. People used to crank the engines of their cars, guys used to be girls on Shakespeare's stage, doesn't take a genius to figure out where I am going with this does it?
These guys and gals are easily noted at fire classes and drills. They tend to sit in the back or away from the general pack and make snide comments toward the trainer. They start arguments defending the way they feel things should be done regardless. They refuse to adapt to any changes in the service be it tactics or regulations and stand strong on their belief. I respect that for them but at the same time kind of long for one to just catch an instructor on an off day and catch a nice roundhouse kick to the throat.
I was told a story from a pal who serves in the Kansas area that his chief gave orders to surround and drown a structure they were responding to as mutual aid. They were unaware of the three crew members from the first in engine that were making interior attack and steamed two of them pretty good and literally soaked the third. The chief argued that his tactics were arrive pull hose and drown the structure. That is the way we always did it!
6. The Company Suck Up
Ah yes the little turd who has so much brown on his nose he looks like a small child eating chocolate pudding without a spoon! It is often hard to id these firefighters because their heads are so far up the admin's buts you don't really know where one ends and the other begins. Company suck ups will agree with the chief no matter what.
They are there to make motions before any real discussions are had, file paper work no other firefighter can know about and generally be a thorn in the anal reaches of every legit firefighter at the department.
They are often given way to may powers and responsibilities and are quick to look through a file, agree with a silly remark, or laugh at the lame jokes admins are prone to tell. What they are not ready to do is pull hose, roll hose, or even get a little dirty at a fire scene. These guys contribute to one of the most annoying issues on the fire departments today and that is favoritism!
Ned behind the wheel.
5. Nascar Ned
Dear God Ned slow down you are going to kill somebody. Ned is the firefighter who gets behind the wheel of big red and guns it like he is trying to replicate the chase scene from Star Wars. I admit we need to be in a hurry to get to the scene and get it controlled like we do, but we need to drive to arrive. Take precautions. If you wreck the truck we are all detouring right back to you and that house is going the way of silent films!
I am often caught in discussions about driving as both departments I attend have some fast Freddies. None have advanced to Ned's status yet but one day that could be a reality. You see Ned has had the truck on two wheels so much the neighborhood kids think it is a really big bicycle!
Being that I am a huge advocate for safety I feel this is a behavioral trait that needs remedied and the only real way to do so is train the drivers on a regular basis and have them confident that they can drive to arrive.
4. Peek-A-Boo Billy
I hate these guys and gals so much. These are the firefighters who only go to major accidents to see gore. They show up and run straight to the scene and start shoving responders to the side so they can see the blood and bone. These guys are often the ones whop after they see the gore leave the scene. They don't ask for assignment, help stabilize the scene or even direct traffic jut come and gawk at the gore and then away they go.s
As firefighters we are all prone to slap a rubbernecker for sure but we don't but I feel when that rubbernecker is one of our own, wind it up and give em a nice one!
Superman firefighter might fit the bill as well.
3. Opera Singer
I am sure right now you are a bit perplexed at how opera singers fit into the whole firefighting thing. Think warming up. Me Me Me. Opera singer firefighters are those who make everything about them. They say things like “I am the one who put the fire out.” or “You could never do that without me.”
Sadly most of your typical me me mes are wearing officer hats. These are the firefighters who basically tell war stories over and over all of which never mention anyone else but them. Another easy way to tell these firefighters apart is when they are attending class they will respond to situations like this. The instructor may say sometimes you have to take out a window to vent or remove a victim.
They will respond what if you just just have a tool and your pal is over by the truck so you just throw your arm through the window. They are obviously referencing themselves but appear to do so in almost third person tones.
The me me me is quite possibly the most annoying firefighter you can encounter and despite good, bad, or mediocre they want it to be all about them.
Not my kind of firefighter at all.
2. That One Guy
This is the firefighter who you have seen so few times you don’t really know their name. They may come to just enough classes to avoid getting punished but will usually skip any events that are not directly fire related. They don’t do road blocks or fund raisers and can hardly be seen at actually emergency scenes.
This type of firefighter is a very dangerous option to have on a department because just like the average Joe they have no real emotional investment to the department.
1. The So What Firefighter
This is the cat who knows all and sees all, of course he did not see the flaming stairwell above him that one day or the firefighter he drowned with a 2 and a half at three in the morning with snow on the ground. The so what is your typical arrogant fool who thinks they have all the answers and every action they take is justified regardless of what it means to the integrity of the scene or the department in general.
These firefighters have no real place in anyleadership role but unfortunately we do see a lot of them wearing the white hats and in that case CHAOS is chief has arrived on scene for sure!
The so what's don't take training serious, will not participate in any discussions and often do not even show up to the scenes fully prepared. They have no real drive other than benefits to themselves. It is sad that we have to endure this type of firefighter but we do and will likely have to keep enduring them.
Let's Talk Fire
Let's Talk Fire can be found here on facebook. I would love to see anyone involved with firefighting or EMS services swing over and join the page. Get involved in discussions and really get to know our brothers and sisters.
Mike McAllister on May 21, 2019:
Brutally accurate. Like volunteer firefighters displaying a Union Sticker on their car. Glad to have them in the fight but honesty is important too.
Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on May 17, 2015:
Thank you very much.
FireL7 on May 17, 2015:
hit the nail on the head, well done
Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on February 23, 2015:
Hanna TAli on February 22, 2015:
Can definitely see that! :)
Sam Little (author) from Wheelwright KY on February 21, 2015:
I try to be a little serious but humorous as well in my writing
Hanna TAli on February 21, 2015:
interesting article! made me laugh at times.