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8 personalities you’ll meet in the fire service

Most folks think they’re a worker bee, but be honest, which are you?


The idealist is always in early, shirt pressed, boots polished and ready for action.

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There are certain personalities in the fire service. I’ll bet these personalities are in every department, heck even every firehouse. Take this list to the station next shift and let’s see if I’m wrong.

1. The idealist

This bright, bubbly personality is always in early, shirt pressed, boots polished and ready for action. They’re the first to answer at a drill or lecture and always seem to find the bright spot in everything. If you don’t like them, get over it fast because these folks always seem to promote quickly. Maybe it was all that studying, drilling and preparation?

2. The grumpy Gus

When their name shows up on the roster you groan under your breath. Or out loud, perhaps even at the top of your lungs. They’re never early — usually the last to show — and they always have an excuse or explanation that borders on the ridiculous. “I got a flat tire, sorry.” C’mon, all four tires on your truck are brand new. (Yes, we are all required to drive a truck.) They’re quick to assign blame, usually from the kitchen table with their T-shirt from another department untucked. Gus is a downer, for sure, and no number of idealists will ever change Gus. The good news is that you’ll never wonder what they’re thinking. They’ll tell you straight up.

3. The pensioner

It’s all about the Benjamin’s for this firefighter. He or she does the bare minimum. Any communication from the retirement board is first on their list of things to talk about and they likely know how many days to retirement. They don’t care about drills or gear or improving the system. That’s the job of the idealist after all. They just want to hit that retirement date and sail off into the sunset and finally relax. As if that isn’t what they’re already doing while out behind the firehouse washing their truck.

4. The senior member

A tradition in many fire departments is to defer to the senior member for advice on drills, experience, past practices, etc. They may know every address in the district, but unless they’re up to date on the newest techniques, building codes, tools and safety practices they’re pretty much just good for telling stories at the table. Granted, this was a prized form of learning in decades past, but it has devolved into recounting war stories about this fire and that, with less emphasis on the importance of engine spotting, ground ladders and aggressive fire attack. The senior member is to be respected and may embody traits of some of the others listed here, but they have no intention of promoting and will likely stay past their retirement date. If they haven’t already, that is.

5. The elitist

The elitist embodies the stereotype of old and seems to always be the last to help load hose after a drill, get dirty doing overhaul or engage in outside firehouse activities. They don’t go on the rafting trips or baseball outings. Instead, they chose to catch up on hobbies or something else they don’t share with the house. Hobbies are a great thing, but the elitist doesn’t want to share with you. Their truck — Yes, all firefighters are required to drive trucks I feel like we’ve covered this — is always spotless and they wear the latest fashions. They likely are single without kids, hence all the time and enough money to wear jeans that cost more than $20.

6. The entitled

The entitled firefighter is always bragging about their extensive training, their number of fires and their advanced education. Almost inevitably, the entitled won’t do well at testing when the test actually rolls around. They’re the ones with all the answers but just can’t figure out what to do with them. Not quite yet a grumpy Gus, but they will be when the idealist gets promoted and they don’t. You’ll hear tales about how it was a political move by the brass. Right... This is the person who will become the senior member by default, rather than choice, and will likely roll straight into a grumpy Gus as a result.

7. The side job

It used to be that a firefighter had to keep a second job to make ends meet. Turns out with a little budgeting most can make it by just fine. Some do still need to work, but the side job always works from work. From real estate to car auctions, their phone is always on. When it’s time to talk after lunch, they’ve gone to the dorm or the bay floor to “work.” Some of us can’t figure out why they spend so much time at work...avoiding order to work. Speaking of work, let’s meet the last person you’ll meet in the fire service.

8. The worker bee

Buzzing around from task to task, this firefighter seems to always be right in the middle of things. Not always early, but never late. Not always first to a tool or nozzle, but never last. If they do wash their truck (yep, still a truck) it’s later in the day after they’ve checked with the officer to ensure all tasks have been completed. They may have another gig on the side, but it’s never evident at the firehouse and they’ll make a good effort at the promotional exam when they’re ready.

Most folks think they’re a worker bee. If you see any of the above traits in your co-workers, feel free to print out this list and post it in the firehouse. Which personality are you?


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This article, originally published September 2016, has been updated.

Justin Schorr is a rescue captain for the San Francisco Fire Department, where he has served as a field paramedic and a firefighter, a field captain and an administrative captain. He is ARFF-qualified and oversees EMS response for San Francisco International Airport. Schorr spent 25 years in the fire service and is experienced in rural, suburban and urban firefighting as well as paramedicine. He runs the blog The Happy Medic.