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Editor’s note: Looking back on 2012

Next year will present many of the same challenges as 2012, but there’s reason for optimism

Our year-end coverage is chock-full of events and images we’ll never forget, and some that we wish we could. But I can’t deliver year-end coverage without touching on the deeply personal change that 2012 brought.

A career is, or should be, a deeply personal thing. If you are going to devote most of your waking hours to a pursuit, you damned well better love it. This year my career shifted to allow me to return to the fire service. And I do love it.

Due to age and other factors, I’ll never be a career firefighter. Yet my time as a volunteer firefighter and my affiliation with the International Fire Relief Mission has given me that sense of fulfillment you only get from serving others.

By joining FireRescue1 early this year, I’m able to serve all firefighters. It is an awesome responsibility, but also provides me that sense of fulfillment that assisting firefighters in developing countries does or responding to calls in my community does.

Shifting my career to the fire service was the achievement of a goal, an achievement that gives me a certain amount of pride. But whether it’s serving as FireRescue1’s editor or responding to calls, pride and achievement can be dangerous.

They are dangerous in that if unchecked, pride can lead to arrogance and a sense of entitlement, and achievement can lead to complacency. To effectively serve firefighters, I can no more allow arrogance and complacency to set in than can responding firefighters.

As we head into a new year, my plan to keep these two gremlins in check is to replace pride with gratitude — gratitude for the opportunity to keep serving. I also will focus on the idea that complacency is actually a lack of service.

So to all FireRescue1 readers, please know that I’m grateful that you allow me to be your editor and look forward to serving you in 2013.

And as I move into next year, there are a few issues that I’d like to see tackled based on trends I’ve seen in the news.

The first would be a tool to evaluate volunteer firefighter applicants for the likelihood of setting fires. Arson is among the more despicable crimes, but it is inexcusable when committed by those sworn to protect the public. Yet every few weeks, there’s a new story of a volunteer being caught starting fires.

This problem is exacerbated by the declining number of those in our society willing to serve as volunteer firefighters. Those problems aside, we need a better way of making sure arsonist don’t infiltrate our ranks. I can think of few things that undermine brotherhood more than a firefighter arsonist.

I’d also like to see an end to theft of firefighting equipment — be it on scene or at station. This is an unfortunate, but largely fixable trend. It means beefing up security and pushing for stiffer penalties for those who steal and those who buy fire department property.

I’d like to see an end to the decimation of career fire departments through budget cuts. Unlike private-sector businesses, fire departments cannot simply do more with less in tough economic times. Civilians and firefighters will be injured and killed as this continues.

With the exception of arson, the roots of these items can be traced to the economy. A strong economy makes many of these problems a lot smaller.

But even if the economy grows by leaps and bounds in the next few months (not holding my breath for that one), government entities will still lag behind the overall recovery as they wait for tax revenues to roll in.

It means we’re in for another year of fighting to hold what we have, finding alternative funding sources and reconsidering the level of services we provide.

But despite these and many other difficulties facing the fire service, remember that what we provide is vital and rewarding.

I urge you to enter the new year striving for improvement and grateful for that opportunity to serve.

Rick Markley is the former editor-in-chief of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, a volunteer firefighter and fire investigator. He serves on the board of directors of and is actively involved with the International Fire Relief Mission, a humanitarian aid organization that delivers unused fire and EMS equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s of fine arts. He has logged more than 15 years as an editor-in-chief and written numerous articles on firefighting. He can be reached at