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15 slang terms only a firefighter would know

Too bad the deckie is a Jake

By Scott Ziegler, FireRescue1 Contributor

Sometimes when I’m hanging out with my non-firefighting friends, I have to stop myself when talking about work because I realize I’m using terms they don’t understand. I’m not talking about big words. I’m a firefighter. We don’t use big, fancy words. I’m talking about slang terms used by only firefighters.

Here are a few terms that we use:

1. Stretchin’

In Detroit, when we get a working fire, we tell central that we are stretchin’ on whatever it is we are going to work on. So for example, when we pull up to a house fire, we’d say, “Engine 30 stretchin’ on a two-flat going throughout.” Or when we tell someone about our night: “I’m beat. We stretched three times last night.” It doesn’t mean we woke up three times to stretch our legs. It means my company responded to three fires and stretched our lines on said fires.

2. Jobs

This seems to be more of an East Coast thing, although I’ve heard it used occasionally around here. A job is a fire. “Went to four jobs last night.” This means they went to four working fires. And it is usually said in some sort of cool accent.

3. Pipe

That’s the hose. We also call it the line. It’s almost never called a hose.

4. Pipeman

This term seems to be used only by inner-city firefighters. Pipeman is usually the person on the engine. Or to take it a step further, the person taking the pipe (refer to #3) into the fire to extinguish it.

5. Tip

The nozzle. I haven’t heard this used much in Detroit, but we used it at my old department. When you had the nozzle, you had the tip. That was always the question asked by the oncoming crew: “Who has the tip?”

6. Jake

This one is kind of odd. I have no idea where it actually comes from. I have read several definitions and they’re all different. But, what it means (here in Detroit) is that you are a terrible firefighter. You do not want to be called a Jake here. On the East Coast, it means you are a good firefighter. Again, in a cool accent, “That’s a good Jake right there.” I don’t have any clue why they are complete opposite depending on your location.

7. Deckie

In Detroit, we call the firefighters on the back of the engine a deckie.

8. Truckie

A firefighter assigned to a ladder company.

How much work gets done when the engine crew can‘t get to the fire?

9. Doin’ it

This one makes me laugh. I don’t even really know if it can actually be called a slang term, but between me and my buddies on the job, when we get a good stretch or go to a good fire, we usually joke and say that we were “doin’ it.” This comes from Backdraft.

10. J’s

“She went off on J’s.” It means said firefighter is off work due to an injury. Note: A alternative this is “Going back on the 40,” as in, the 40-hour workweek.

11. Redline

This is a red, 1-inch diameter hoseline that puts out 60 gpm. Our engines and trucks have them. We use it on car fires, trash fires and sometimes even on dwelling fires. It’s on a reel so it is deployed and put away very quickly. “Get that red line in here, we can get it,” says the truckie.

12. The job

Firefighters refer to our job as “the job” because it is the ONLY job. It’s the best job. “How long ya been on the job?” or “He’s been on the job for a year.” There are no other jobs out there that could possibly come close to comparing with “the job.”

Bonus Slang

We asked a few friends of FireRescue1 to share their firehouse slang. Here are three more terms to add to your fire service dictionary:

13. The Stick

The stick is the aerial ladder, as in “Put the stick up on the alpha side.”

14. The Can Man

The “can man” is the person who carries the water can into the fire, often a probie or rookie.

15. Rattling the Pans

When you rattle the pans, it means you’re cooking. For example, “Who’s rattling pans today?”

A simple A-Z guide to ease the lingo learning curve – and even give aspiring firefighters a head start on the job

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