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8 ways firefighting changes you

Life-changing experiences can occur regardless of how long you’ve been on the job


For each of us there are those little events that mean nothing to anybody else, but resonate deeply.

Photo/Joe Thomas of Greenbox Photography

The experiences firefighters encounter is unlike any other profession.

Sometimes, you can be on cloud nine after rescuing a family from a house fire. Other times, calls involving fatalities — especially with children — can haunt you the rest of your career. And for each of us there are those little events that mean nothing to anybody else, but resonate deeply.

Life-changing experiences can occur regardless of how long you’ve been on the job.

We asked our fans on Facebook how firefighting has changed them. Here are some of their responses.

If you haven’t already, be sure to add your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Everyone is fighting a battle

Rich Stevens: “In 12 years of service, I have a whole new respect for the phrase ‘everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.’ Whether it is patients or co-workers, I’ve learned not to be so quick to draw conclusions about people.”

2. We are not in control

Chris Marshall: “Seven years of service. The images, scenes and experiences that stay with you make you keenly aware that we (first responders) may influence outcomes, hopefully for the better for many that we serve. But there is definitely a higher power that oversees the work we do. You only need to witness life escaping from a person once to understand that we are not ultimately in control.”

3. Bad calls stick with you, good ones fade

Alex Middleton: “Fifteen years in the fire service will do different things to different people. It can be very hard afterwards, dealing with the things that we have to see and do. When I was a rookie, I’d tell myself that one ‘good’ call outweighs 100 ‘bad’ ones. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s the bad ones that stick with you the longest, and the good ones just fade with time.”

4. How to push, believe in yourself

Teresa Vanhorn: “Joining our volunteer fire department has taught me how to push myself and believe in myself. I have done so many things that I have never thought I would ever have the courage to do. It feels great to be a part of such community. I love how no matter what department we are working with on any scene it feels as if we are one big family and everyone literally has your back, as well as you having theirs. I had an accident on one of our scenes a few months back, and everyone had shown this first hand.”

5. Humility and respect

Anna Frank Johnson: “It taught me to appreciate being a part of something bigger than me. It has also taught me humility, respect for authority and respect for those with more experience than I have. It’s not about me; it’s all about our community, our families and our company.”

6. Accountable for every action

Fernando Videgaray: “Twenty years taught me to be accountable for my every action and that there will always be firefighters and people that work at the fire department.”

7. Not knowing it all

Dwayne Fretz: “Well, in 12 years I went from a know-it-all to I am glad to know something. To be in the group of people that some others look up to is a very humbling thing and I am honored to have passed on some of my knowledge to new recruits.”

8. Real heroes work for free, don’t expect any thanks in return

Daniel George: “Two years in the service. As a rookie, going up to Fort McMurray was a once in a lifetime experience. After beating up some small fires, I went into the job a little hot headed. My head was a little too big for my helmet. Being at the large scale event, I was humbled by the volunteers onsite working for free with agencies such as Team Rubicon or the Canadian Red Cross. Actually, working as a firefighter taught me that all first responders have a role to play. As firefighters, we are simply team players with a specific set of duties and responsibilities. We have a job to do and are not heroes. The real heroes work for free and don’t expect any thanks in return. Alberta is still so grateful for all of those who traveled to Fort McMurray to assist us during our time of need. Firefighting has made me a more humble and grateful person.”

“The Question” section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on FR1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of FR1.