a new training acadamy starts soon; somehow, The Providence fire Department will survive…

"Thousands of people will apply for your job when you leave, get over it, you are nothing special"

How many times have you heard that one? Too many is my guess. When a fire department needs people the usual path to finding qualified personnel is to advertise the position. Any good sized department will likely be bombarded with applications. Indeed, thousands will apply.

It's a little different "applying" for a job and actually doing the job you "applied" for. People with decades of experience; people who came to work, and "applied" themselves, every day, day after day leave the ranks when their time is done, making room for the next generation of firefighter. Thankfully, you and thousands do apply, because a big pool of applicants is needed to find the people who are truly ready to apply themselves.

Before I was hired as a firefighter I had a lot of jobs, and worked with all kinds of different people. A prevalent comment when the job at hand was difficult or hazardous or plain old nasty is "they don't pay me enough to do that,” and the job simply would not get done. And the guys that didn't get paid enough to do that job would quit, or get fired and "apply" for another job that they would work at, and do their time, and punch out at the end of the day never having applied themselves.

There isn't anything wrong with that. Some people are simply not that complicated, and find contentment just getting by, collecting their pay and leaving when their day is done. Many of these are the people who apply for the job of firefighter, and never finish the application process.

We seldom hear about the thousands that forget to show up for the entrance exam, fail the background check, fail the physical agility test or simple do not finish high enough on the list to get hired. A lot of people are willing to "take" our job, not many could "do" our job. A lot of good firefighters have retired from my department over the last year; they leave a giant hole in skill, leadership and personality. Thousands have applied to take their place; hopefully in those ranks will be people with the potential to fill the void.

Only a few of those who applied will be capable and willing and able to stand in front of a fully involved building, turn in their pack, mask up, force the door, find the fire and put it out. Or pull the bloody, barely breathing victim from the rubble, and wash off the blood when the job is done.

The few don't say, "They don't pay me enough." The few go in, and get dirty, and get the job done. The few will eventually fill the shoes of the ones who came before them, and follow their footsteps into places the rest would never go.

Here's to "The Few," coming, and especially to those going. There will always be those who could have, would have and should have done our jobs, and those people will relentlessly attack our position, pension, pay and benefits, even our time off. Don’t let the bastards get you down, because you know, and I know, and deep down inside, where what it takes to put on the uniform either remains buried, safe and sound, or struggles to the top, gets dressed and goes to work, that we are here because we earned it, and they did not.

Thanks for showing up.


  • Mr618 says:

    Definitely not trying to knock you, but we should also respect those who join the volunteer departments. My youngest brother (now deceased, due to chemical sathma from an explosion at an unsuspected hazmat storage site) served for 23 years, and earned most of the certifications available to volunteers —  Instructor I and II, Officer I and II, Hazmat Specialist, dive, marine, high-angle, trench, etc. My middle brother did 17 years before his back did him in.
    Volunteers are expected to meet the same standards as career firefighters. We just have to do it on our own time, on our own nickle, often with fewer resources to draw upon (like backfill).
    And for the volunteer departments, don't think that being in less-than-prime physical shape means you can't help out. I'm 56 and certainly not a spring chicken. Can't do interior anymore, but can do grass/brush, MVAs, rehab, the medical stuff. I can serve as Safety Officer, PIO, and/or Liaison Officer, Finance/Admin, Logistics, even Planning. I'm training officer for the rescue side of the house (including Advanced ICS), and do all the admin stuff for the fire side (those NFIRS reports are a bee-yotch at times).
    Even if it's just making coffee, there's a spot for most people. How often does Firegeezer refill the Bunn-O-Matic every day?
    I'm not comparing my town of 800 to Providence or San Francisco, but over the years, I've had my share of saves, and my share of losses. But delivering a baby in East Upper Cupcake, Maine, is every bit as satisfying, and every bit as important, as it is in bigger cities (especially when you realize our Maternity ward is almost 40 miles away). ODs happen everywhere, just more frequently in the big cities, but dealing with them is the same (and more challenging, in that we have to start with basics and wait 5-10 minutes for a medic to arrive to administer some "Vitamin N").
    And our small, local VFDs would whup ass on FDNY if tanker shuttles or "creative" water supplies were needed.

  • michael says:

    Roger that, MR618, and how about those volunteers from Newtown and Webster!  Everybody loves the volunteers, except some cement headed union stalwarts. Paid firefighters? Thats a different story, as you know. Even people who respect us think it's all gravy. After a few years it gets under your skin. if you let it.

  • firehat says:

    Mr. 618, I'm not knocking volunteers here, but it is important to remember that in most places volunteers are NOT expected to mee the same standards as paid firefighters. In Texas, for example, there is no state requirement for volunteer training at all, even entry-level. Paid guys, on the other hand, must have around 600 clock hours of fire and hazmat and EMT on top of it to get in the door.

  • Mr618 says:

    Every state is different, that's for sure. I'm not sure the legal status, but with so many of our residents in Maine being retirees from other places — like Boston, NYC, Philly, and so on — our taxpayers have come to expect a certain level of expertise from the fire service, and they don't necessarily grasp the career vs volunteer dichotomy. In our county, the chiefs "encourage" FF I and II within the first two years, with the other basic certs, like hazmat ops, etc. If one doesn't do as the chief encourages, of course, one gets kinda eased out. The philosophy is "the public expects it, they pay the bills, we have to deliver."
    I am not saying, by the way, that everyone on our volunteer departments has to meet all the specs, but the line firefighters, and especially the ones who do interior, are usually required by the department to meet the goals. Maine has it's own Interior Firefighter certification, sort of a scaled-down version of NFPA standards, but several of the chiefs in my area don't recognize it and want full NFPA complaince.
    Also, of course, a lot of the younger guys go onto the volunteer departments waiting for career openings, so they seek out the training on that basis. The chiefs realize the advantages and try to use additional training to retain qualified volunteers.

  • Old Jake says:

    Mike, spot on………………Another Good piece of writing.  

  • Jsprag211 says:

    Those lucky enough to be invited to the academy can only hope to be half the firefighters of those that came before them.  Any ideas on to when the new training academy will begin?

    • Michael Morse says:

      Thanks J., sorry no info about the acadamy, City Hall runs the show until the moment the trainees show up, then its our turn. Good Luck!

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