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Firehouse Funnies
by Will Wyatt

5 firefighting T-shirts I won't wear

Here's a list of some of the dumbest things you'll see on a firefighting T-shirt; just not on my back

By Will Wyatt

The T-shirt has come a long way in the fire service. From humble beginnings of iron-on letters to the fancy silk-screened, computer-generated graphics we have today.

The term T-shirt comes from how the sleeves and body make a T shape. T-shirts became popular with stevedores in the late 19th century and were even issued to sailors in the U. S. Navy during the Spanish-American War.

T-shirts are easy to clean, can be bought in bulk and can be used to uniformly equip a workforce. It's easy to put company names on the back or front and even put a message on them.

T-shirts are used as prizes in many areas of entertainment. I can't tell you all the sporting events I have attended where cheerleaders or support people threw team T-shirts to the crowd. Some places even have guns that shoot the shirts up into the stands.

Fire department style
Most fire departments allow T-shirts to be worn. There are some exceptions of course; some places want you in button up badge shirts on EMS calls, or want a uniform shirt worn during the day and allow the T-shirts at night.

Years ago we went through a polo shirt phase. I never liked them, but that's just personal preference. Occasionally I see them now and I immediately hear Olivia Newton John singing, "let's get physical."

Where I work, each shift is allowed to design and wear a shift T-shirt. I like that. I think it promotes camaraderie and pride in one's shift.

Many fire departments have slogans on their shirts: Engine this deep in the heat; Station so and so first in, last out. There is a station in my area that has a slogan: "Bringing them out alive." A cool slogan is fine; it promotes a little healthy competition between shifts and stations.

An entire wardrobe
Now let's have an honesty check. I have a lot of fire department T-shirts — some I have bought, some have been given to me. T-shirts are big business. I somehow seem to purchase one at a lot of the fire stations I visit.

I have purchased shirts in Baltimore, New Orleans and Toronto. The usual drill is they have a sign displayed and one guy usually heads up the T-shirt business. Sometimes you have to come back the next day when the T-shirt guy is working.

I have a lot of company shirts, department shirts and a few memorial fund raising shirts. A lot of times shirts are sold as a fundraiser to help a firefighter or his family.

I don't think I have any with witty sayings on any them. Some are clever: "Firefighters Kick Ash." I saw an EMS shirt the other day saying "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round." If you have been on a busy ambulance you can really relate to that.

However, when I attend any of the large fire service tradeshows it takes no time at all in the exhibit hall to find table after table of T-shirts. Some I really have to shake my head at.

So with that, here are five T-shirts I won't wear. The hate mail from the T-shirt sellers should be in shortly.

5. Firefighter: Will work for Cupcakes
Well, about that statement. There are people who already think we sit around and eat all day. Plus, I need to bring home more than cupcakes. Is this the image we want to project?

4. Firefighters Work Where the Devil Dances
No, I'm out. It somehow borders on the satanic. It might have been proper attire at a singles bar in the '70s. Let me go out and turn on my Kojak light.

3. Kiss my Ax
I believe this is meant as a clever play on words. My aunt used to say "go pound sand." A popular sitcom from years ago involved a waitress saying: "Kiss my grits!"

No thanks. Furthermore, I have never had romantic desires involving forcible entry tools. And speaking of romantic desires.

2. Firefighters Have Longer Hoses
I have conducted field research on this topic and I am here to debunk this urban legend. I have visited numerous retail outlets, home improvement centers and hardware stores to investigate this claim.

Regrettably, I have come to a startling conclusion. The standard home usage water hose, commonly known as a garden hose, comes in 50- or 100-foot lengths. These hose lengths are available to the average consumer and can be connected together to make long hoses.

Therefore, firefighters do not have longer hoses than anyone else.

1. Coed Naked Firefighting
What? Are you serious?

This comes from a coed naked craze from years ago. There were T-shirts of coed naked everything: baseball, soccer, football, you name it.

Anybody who wants to fight a fire naked has never been to one let alone been in one. Yes, we are a coed organization and I have worked with several females over the years. I can promise you none of them want to see middle aged me flapping in the wind at the next fire.

How about a Maltese cross on the front and an image of your apparatus, or department name on the back? Let me hear from you.  

About the author

Will Wyatt, who is originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for about 30 years. Will is a captain at the Village Fire Department in the Houston area. Will also works part time at another fire department and part time at a 911 emergency medical service. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments in the Houston area including full time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Will holds a master fire fighter certification with the State of Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification, and an associate degree from Houston Community College. Recently will authored a book on the fire service entitled, "And a Paycheck, Too!" Check out an excerpt here. Contact Will at

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014 11:50:10 AM A former fire chief actually banned the "Coed" and "Big Johnson" shirts in the station. Only 1 guy complained......he's been gone for a while now.
Dusty Gay Dusty Gay Wednesday, August 06, 2014 8:14:45 PM I agree with you on all but the cup cake issue. We volunteers love cup cakes. It's better than nothing.
David Yard David Yard Wednesday, August 06, 2014 8:30:22 PM WOW, Lack of humor much?
Ron Ayotte Ron Ayotte Wednesday, August 06, 2014 9:21:09 PM I would get them as gifts.. and then they would be donated to one of the local charities or to the homeless shelter.
Ed Silva Ed Silva Wednesday, August 06, 2014 9:53:32 PM Over the years I have been given t-shirts that I will not wear because they were stupid or offensive. Funny ones I wore. Having been a full time police officer and a volunteer firefighter I would destroy them after a while. I would not want them on the street on some homeless person or someone who just got out of jail and have someone think they were in public service. We all need to think when we discard something.
John Woods John Woods Thursday, August 07, 2014 6:31:57 AM I dance where the devil farts.
Ray Crouch Sr Ray Crouch Sr Thursday, August 07, 2014 6:43:21 AM You are so right. Thanks for saying what I was thinking.
Hawk McKinnon Hawk McKinnon Thursday, August 07, 2014 6:53:32 AM I agree with you on all; one note that can be added to the "cupcake" T-shirt, it can be a play on politics as the "kiss my ax" is a play on words. Rather have the Maltese Cross front and/or back with department name, specialty, division, etc....the others can be for fundraisers only.
Russell Randolph Russell Randolph Thursday, August 07, 2014 8:13:39 PM i enjoyed your comments. i have what i call "testostrine shirts" 1-(on the back)-if you are reading this your are second due 2-God created firefighters so cops can have heroes 3-Dont follow me, you cant keep up 4-You've got the best, forget the rest 5-We know our ABC's Airway, Breathing, Continue the medics 6-If you drop out of the fire academy, the police are looking too 7-RES3CUE- because we care enough to send the very best because i work in the EOD (explosives) community 1-If you can read this you're too F*****G close 2-If you dont see me running, its too late 3-We take a lickin if it stops tickin 4-If you're not an EOD tech, dont question why i'm cutting "that" wire 5-Never park in a space that says "reserved for EOD" 6-Being an EOD tech means you never have neighbors who piss you off 7-There are many jobs you can make ONE mistake in and survive...EOD aint one of them 8-The sane people are 1000 yards away in the bunker
Ron Dunn Ron Dunn Friday, August 08, 2014 10:34:42 AM If you want to project a professional image you should consider what you wear .It may be cute or macho, but the average citizen doesn't think so. While we're at it if you have a FD license plate or sticker on your car don't drive like an idiot, it reflects badly on those of us who care about the image we project!
Jeff Moss Jeff Moss Friday, August 08, 2014 11:28:00 AM Please include the idiotic new shirt I have seen that says "my job is to save you a$ not kiss it" I can't believe someone came up with that one. Customer Service right out the window.
Jack Verde Jack Verde Sunday, August 10, 2014 12:48:37 PM I won't wear anything that disparages the taxpayers.
Randy Carpadus Randy Carpadus Sunday, August 10, 2014 5:21:11 PM I happen to like #4 and also like the idea of polo's in certain circumstances. Better than Cal Fire's policy of a full blue cotton-blend uniform shirt!
Bonnie Walker Bonnie Walker Sunday, August 10, 2014 7:07:26 PM They sure don't respect Fire Fighters. The job is a lot more serious than people think it is. Awful things can happen but God has His angels watching over them. I love my Fire a fighters where I live and I take them treats every so often as a way to say thank you.

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