The other night I was out on the front porch puffing on my favorite brand of cigar and staring off into the distance pondering the movement of the earth around the sun. I was indulging myself with a moment or two of quiet time. As I counted the aircraft lights soaring high above me in the night sky my thoughts turned, as they often do, to the fire service.
In my mind's eye images of the past began to appear. Some were hazy, as though seen through a light fog. Others were crystal clear. It was as though they had just happened, rather than being decades old. These images continued to consume my thoughts for the better part of an hour. I just had to write about them. I had to share my innermost feelings on these issues.
After snuffing out my cigar I repaired to my office in order to commit my random thoughts to paper. These thoughts were about firefighting equipment and operational practices which most folks within our firefighting field consigned to the bone yard many moons ago. As the hour was late, I had to settle for some scribbled notes on a lined yellow pad to save time.
I left the note pad sitting on my desk for awhile. It is my belief that time spent upon reflection is always time well spent. However those late-night front-porch thoughts continued to bother me. I am an ardent supporter of the fire service, but sometimes I think that far too many people are just along for the ride with the rest of us.
Being a fairly kind-hearted chap, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. If you say you are one of us that's good enough for me. I am normally a trusting sort. This trait has gotten me into trouble from time to time. However, when I try really hard, I can morph myself into one truly cynical son-of-a-gun; if only for a moment now and again.
It is my opinion that not everyone in the fire service is operating in the best interests of the members of our emergency service world. These are the people who move through life doing whatever they want, paying scant attention to the experience of others, not to mention the codes and standards which have evolved over the years for our protection and guidance. My friends, they just do not get it.
These standards have been built upon the lessons we have learned from the sacrifices made by fire people in the past. We now have such important safety tools as the National Fire Protection Association's live-fire training standard and its occupational safety and health standards because the manner in which we were operating simply kept killing people. Hell, people are still dying because some people are just too damned stupid to know any better.
People with gumption have stood up time and again to battle for changes in the status quo. The improved level of safety we now enjoy is the resultant product of a great deal of hard work by some truly dedicated people. However the ignorant among us are doing their best to confound the collective work and wisdom of the last forty years.
These are those boastful bullies and buffoons who take great pleasure in the living of lives unchanged from the past. They dwell in the past in an almost religious manner. They wear the past like a dusty, thread-bare suit of clothes. They and their cronies live life as it was relayed to them by way of their fathers, and their grandfathers before them.
These are the "my-way-or-the-highway" people whose goal is to perpetuate the past for their personal pleasure. Ignorance will be their gift to posterity. These are also the people who would still be running horses or using leather hose if they could find it.
I have nothing against the phrase "Leather Forever," but that phrase refers to helmets and not hose or lungs. These people to whom I refer are those who boast about how they have fought change at every turn in the road. They will brag about how they fought the biggest fire in the history of their communities while clothed in work jeans and using a booster line to boot.