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10 firefighter books that make for great holiday gifts

Check out this list, and find a book for the special first responders in your life to curl up with next to the fireplace

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is ... a three-alarm, and they’re calling for mutual aid?

Instead of setting the scene for a wintry wonderland, these books, written by firefighters, offer the lessons and stories they learned during their careers over the course of hundreds of responses.

Read about working as a firefighter in New York’s South Bronx in the late 1960s, the fate of a group of 1949 smokejumpers in Montana, as well as the near-miss moments that brought departments across the country back to the basics.

Check out this list, and find a book for the special first responders in your life to curl up with next to the fireplace.

Top 10 books by firefighters, for firefighters


1. “Fire Command” by Alan V. Brunacini

Prior to his death, America’s fire chief, Alan Brunacini (“Bruno”) wrote “Fire Command,” which has long been credited with serving as an instrumental textbook about the incident management system.

2. “Report from Engine Co. 82” by Dennis Smith

A memoir by Dennis Smith, “Report from Engine Co. 82” recounts a career as a firefighter in the poverty-stricken district of New York’s South Bronx in the late 1960s. Smith tells the story of a brutalizing yet rewarding profession.

3. “Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean

Another title devoted to the elite smokejumpers, “Young Men and Fire” details a specific event on August 5, 1949, when a group of firefighters jumped into a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. All but three of the crew did not return. Maclean, who also wrote “A River Runs Through It,” worked for the Forest Service in his youth and studied this fire extensively to write this perspective of the event.

4. “3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It” by Sean Flynn

On Dec. 3, 1999, a three-alarm warehouse fire in a six-story, windowless building sent the Worchester (Massachusetts) Fire Department into action. The blaze was unruly, with rollovers, flashovers and backdrafts. Once inside the warehouse, the firefighters found themselves trapped in walls of blazing orange heat and black smoke where they struggled to survive an ill-fated ordeal that would push them to the limits of courage. “3000 Degrees” gives an unprecedented look at the firefighters who rushed into the burning building when everyone else just wanted out.

5. “Pass It On 3: Making Good Progress” by Billy Goldfeder

In the latest installment of the “Pass It On” series, Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder has again gathered leading firefighters from all over the country to share their wisdom and insight through short personal stories, life experiences and anecdotes. Including more than 80 contributors, “Making Good Progress” delivers tactics, operations, tragedy, humor, knowledge and personal perspectives from a wide range of personalities.


6. “Building Construction for the Fire Service” by Frank Brannigan

In 1971, Francis L. Brannigan created “Building Construction for the Fire Service,” a groundbreaking resource offering a comprehensive review of building construction for firefighters. With his dedication to firefighter safety and saving lives, the legacy of Frank Brannigan continues with the sixth edition of the book – an integral resource for fire officers, instructors, those studying for promotion, individuals taking civil service examinations, fire science students, and both current and prospective firefighters.

7. “I Can’t Save You, But I Will Die Trying” by Dr. Burton Clark

This book is primarily a collection of essays and articles dealing with the culture of the fire service. It focuses on those practices and methods that make up the low-hanging fruit that firefighters can implement to prevent needless deaths and injuries. This book should be required reading for every firefighter, no matter their rank or years of experience.

8. “Fully Involved Leadership” by Gary Ludwig

In his latest book, Chief Ludwig goes beyond the “cookie-cutter” leadership and management books to reveal the events that have shaped his and other chiefs’ careers. The real-world experiences and lessons that are vividly detailed in the book provide a roadmap for any aspiring firefighter wishing to be promoted, a company or chief officer looking to go to the next level, or a fire chief who wishes to further develop their leadership skills.

9. “On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories” by Linda Willing

Linda Willing profiles more than 35 women who serve as firefighters in the United States and Canada. Each shares her story, from 9/11 to EMS calls and everything in between. The common thread among all women featured in this book is their love and commitment to a life of service as a firefighter.

10. “First In, Last Out: Leadership Lessons from the New York Fire Department” by John Salka

What does it take for someone to run into a burning building when everyone else is running out? In “First In, Last Out,” FDNY Chief John Salka uses real-world stories to illustrate how to both practice and teach high-stakes leadership, plus how to build loyalty among members.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.