Preserving firefighter culture, fire service camaraderie

Embrace firefighter camaraderie, diversity and history while moving forward to embrace the future with passion


Black-bunting hanging across the front of a fire station signifies the loss of a brother or sister. It is always a heart-wrenching tragedy when we lose firefighters and paramedics in the line of duty. More often than not, I find that the bunting does not signify a line-of-duty death, but an off-duty death – sometimes from tragic circumstances, sometimes merely from the ravages of life.

Few industries, if only loosely shared by my good friends in law enforcement, boast the level of camaraderie the fire service experiences and demonstrates every day. Somewhat similar to our brothers and sisters in military service, firefighters work, eat, sleep and socialize with each other on and off duty. They constantly work together as a team/crew. Firefighting is a way of life – not just a job or profession.

I don’t see lawyers training half the year and playing in charity softball tournaments while their families cheer them on (for the record, we’d beat them if they did play!). How about teachers, bankers or veterinarians? Politicians, shop-keeps, or cooks? Nope – our blend of work and family, while not unique, is difficult to find or replicate, regardless how others may try.

Where is your conscience – the past, the future or now? (Photo/Pixabay)
Where is your conscience – the past, the future or now? (Photo/Pixabay)

How the fire service satisfies Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiologic, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualization) seems hand-crafted to fit the fire service. I like the way author Anthony “Tony” Robbins explains it. Tony describes the six basic human needs that most people would do anything to get. “The six core human needs are certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. The first four needs are defined as needs of the personality and the last two are identified as needs of the spirit.” He explains the needs work in tandem, producing a state of correctness or happiness.

These needs of spirit and personality are fed by life’s most basic physiologic needs of food, water, shelter and sleep. These basic human needs fuel our ability to help, to make a difference and to be different.

Moving forward in service to others

Our fire service camaraderie has come under attacks of sorts over the years. Whether political, demographic or sociologic, there are those who have a disdain for or envy our way of life and make attempts to disrupt the force. Core to our being is the desire to be something more – to help and make daily differences in our collective world. It does seem to become harder every day to make positive differences.

We all yearn for “the way things used to be.” I subscribe to the theory that “the way things used to be” should refer to a time of discipline, loyalty and courage (not support repressive, regressive or discriminatory behavior) – discipline and loyalty to do the right thing and courage to do it at the right time, for the right reasons.

I encourage and embrace our camaraderie, our diversity and our history. Similarly, I encourage you to keep moving forward in service to ourselves and others, to remember those who have gone before us, and to embrace the future with passion.

We are one of the most enviably respected professions in the world. We are, however, also vulnerable to our successes. Don’t become a statistic of stupidity in your actions or deeds. Check your personal 360 and be prepared for the avant-garde. And remember that our past is who we are, while our future is who we will be perceived as. Where is your conscience – the past, the future or now? I’ll take the conscience of now for the time being, thank you.

Take care, be safe and stay smart.

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