Photo credit: Photo by Peter Matthews/Firehouse.com
"Man, I hope we run a fire today."
How many times have you said those words while at the firehouse just to hear a brother or sister ask "you want someone to lose their house?"
It’s seems like an age-old battle between those who want to do the job and those who would rather be riding a recliner in front of the television while watching the History Channel, but maybe it goes a little deeper than that. Wanting to use the skills that you train on, day in and day out, is not a unusual thing to ask for, is it? Let’s take a little closer look at the heated debate on "wishing for a fire" from a few different perspectives. As firefighters we all want to be the first in crew, but at the same time how often is it the fire departments membership who steps up to help the victims of a tragedy? While we do not wish any hardship on people, we do hope that we are first due when it does.
Most often, it seems like the new firefighters on the block are anxiously awaiting for a chance to practice their new skills and gain some experience. This viewpoint is understandable while they often need to be reminded of the hardships people experience when they lose their homes or loved ones. Wishing for something bad to happen needs to be expressed inside the walls of the fire station or not at all. Imagine the public image nightmare it may cause if a member of the public hears you asking for something to "catch fire."
Is it an adrenaline issue or a desire issue? This can be a two headed monster as we all know what kind of adrenaline rush going into a burning building can be. Often firefighters begin their career knowing this and seek out a way of getting an adrenaline "rush." More so, a desire to help people is the underlying cause of their want for a fire. Most of us get into this business looking to help people and protect them from fire and spend countless hours learning, drilling, and making ourselves ready for the next run. Wanting the run to come in seems natural to us, but can be misinterpreted if heard by the outside public.
This Jumpseat rider believes you learn who is truly about the job during the downtime. As we gain experience in the fire service we seem to want less and less fires to happen. Whether it be the face of human tragedy or the soreness that comes after the fire has been knocked down, many older firefighters would rather keep it in the house. When was the last time you heard a line officer say, "I'm hoping for a fire today." How would you react if the station captain or battalion chief said those words?
Just like the new firefighters, the more experienced firefighters may need to keep their opinions inside the walls of the fire station. There is no doubt that when a experienced firefighter hopes for a fire they know what may come. It can bring death, destruction, or even a chance to lay down their life in exchange for another. By hoping for a fire, it does show that they still have the passion for doing the job and helping people. They stand committed to being the first due, even in their last year of service before retirement.
Should We Hope?
If you chose to repair air conditioners, would you go to Alaska to work? I truly believe that if we are all given the choice we would choose the busiest companies who run the most fires. Many of us go to the fire station wanting to run the next one while suffering through the drought of fires and spending our time preparing, training, and wondering when it will happen.
If you are not in the fire service, I am not sure that you will understand why we hope for a fire. We would never wish ill will on anyone; most firefighters go out of their way to volunteer time in their communities, raise money for different charities, and help people when tragedy strikes. Hoping that a fire happens is not a wish for trouble it’s a hope that we are ready to help when duty calls.
- See Ryan Live! Blogger Ryan Pennington will be presenting "Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, July 23 - 27.