First week on the job; vacant house fire, fairly common I was to find out, arson for profit likely, we had it under control in ten minutes.
Once the smoke had cleared, I took the mask off my face. Everybody else already had, felt kind of silly wearing mine. Felt even sillier when I realized that I couldn’t breathe the toxic soup the other guys were inhaling, and quickly put it back on.
Those guys had been on the job since the seventies, and saw more fire in a year than I would in my career. Many were Viet Nam Veterans.
The firefighters that I worked with then are in their seventies and eighties now, if they survived. Cancer and COPD got a lot of them. It isn’t their fault, they did the job armed with the knowledge they had, and the equipment offered was optional.
I don’t feel silly about wearing my mask anymore. I wore one then, and I wear a different one now. It’s still kind of optional, but for me, essential equipment.
Stay safe everybody, we’re in the overhaul part of this pandemic, when our impulse is to let our guard down, and take off our masks.