Are You Just Taking Up Space?

I have sure been a lucky camper during my time in the fire service. Many of the folks with whom I have worked over the past four decades have been incredibly interesting, talented and productive people.


Regardless of what they felt about the leaders of their organization, they kept coming back because they did not want to disappoint their buddies. It is this aura of brotherhood that I have witnessed in every instance. While they level of brotherhood varied, it was always there. Let me urge you to remember one thing my friends. I want to state unequivocally that I have found brotherhood is a sex-neutral term. My daughter Katie is a part of the brotherhood of firefighters.

I strongly believe that the concept of brotherhood describes the satisfaction people receive from laboring with other people who share their fears, joys, loves, disappointments, and hatreds. It describes the pride that people feel in being part of an important and valuable community service. More than that, it allows people to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Billy Goldfeder and I only get together on a few occasions to share our wit, wisdom, and love for the fire service and they people who labor along with us. Nonetheless we are brothers. The same is true for Harvey Eisner and Jeff Barrington at Firehouse magazine and Bobby Halton at Fire Engineering.

I believe that not a day goes by when Billy, Jeff, Harvey, and Bobby are left out of my thoughts. The same holds true for Jack Peltier in Massachusetts, Steve Austin and Ken McMahon in Delaware, Roger Melchoir in Florida, and Chip Comstock in Ohio. That is just the way it is in the brotherhood.

Perhaps it is because we share emails frequently. However I would prefer to think that it is because I know that they are there for me. I want them to know that I am there for them. Let me assure you that each of us is laboring every day to make the fire service a better place to be. Whether our labors are being undertaken at the local, regional, state, or national levels the outcome is the same. The fire service is a better place and wherever it is we do our good works does not matter. We are all members of the brotherhood.

Let me now describe a member of the fire service who is not on the same team with you or me. No names, but you will recognize this person. Sadly, I want to assure you that this person is not alone. This is the person who rarely attends a meeting of the organization.

They have no good reason for their lack of attendance. They are not at work or volunteering somewhere else. They simply do not come. This same person rarely attends any form of training session. It is their claim that they learned it all at the fire academy and have no need to waste time going over the same things.

When it comes to emergencies this person is the man (or woman) who is never there. You can never count on them in the tight spots. They specialize in making a last-minute appearance to get their credit at the post-incident roll call ceremony. Be aware that these are the people upon whom you can never rely.

I do not want you to get the wrong idea here. There is a distinct difference between what you should expect of a younger member and what you can hope expect from a veteran who still takes a glove and heads out onto the field each day. Let me pause for a moment to mention something to you younger folks out there.

There are those of us out here in the world that have been in the business for many decades and are slowly beginning to wear out. We are getting tired. Many of us were rolling out to fires before you were born. The very fact that we are still here amazes most of us. If I had ever known that I would live this long, I would have taken better care of my body. If we seem to be a step or two slower than the rest of you young pups, it is because it might be time for you to take over our duties.

I want you to know that as long as we can contribute, each of us will. As long as we can share our knowledge and experience, we will. Let me assure you that the one thing I am most sure of after forty years in the business is that I do no know it all. The more I learn, the more I realize I do not know. However, what I do bring to the table is a willingness to admit my limits as well as a willingness to reach out to my network for the answer to your problem.

My concern in this article is for the person who never was, nor ever will be a boil on the butt of a real firefighter. It is just a crying shame that you cannot go after some of these people for violating the fraud statutes for impersonating a firefighter. I do not want to think about how many phonies we were forced to carry for a career in my old department because they had political protectors.