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What keeps me coming back to firefighting

One of the best parts about our job is the people we work with and the bonds we form with them


Photo/City of Olympia

By Scott Ziegler

How many people can honestly say that when they get up for work in the morning, they are happy to go?

Sure, we complain about politics, pensions and pay cuts. Also there are those days when we are missing out on something, whether it be a family function, a party, watching the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup, or the Lions blow another game (I still love them). And we have all had those nights when we could not sleep or had to eat cold meals. But honestly, think about it. We truly have the best job in the world. Why?

For me there are many reasons. But I think one of the best parts about our job is the people we work with and the bonds we form with them. When we use the word “brothers,” it is literal. Obviously, not blood, but the guys that you work with literally become family.

I think the greatest relationships are born out of shared misery. The kind of misery that comes from your fourth house fire in a 12-hour-period on a freezing December night. Temps near zero and a couple feet of snow on the ground. Frozen line everywhere. Frozen gear. Frozen mustaches for those of us awesome enough to grow a great mustache (maybe someday). Hands feeling like they will crack with every bend of a finger. Feet numb and wet. All you can think about is getting back to the station to put on dry clothing.

And through it all, your brothers are right there with you, feeling the same pain, the same misery. They stand by, cracking jokes. All you can see is the whites of their eyes and teeth as they smile, their faces all covered in soot. You get back to the firehouse and someone throws on a pot. It’s a race to get the engine back in service and get to the shower first. Sometimes you don’t even bother with one. Just a set of dry clothes will do.

Or how about that fire you entered and almost didn’t make it out? I am sure a lot of us have had those. Fire in a single family dwelling, second floor going. We made a great stop and just after we take our masks off on the second floor, the portion of attic and roof above us crashes down on top of us. Minutes later, we realize everyone is fine.

Maybe a change of underwear is needed, but that was probably needed anyways. And again, there are your brothers right there next to you, dealing with the same emotions you are. Most times they have a smile on their face and a joke to crack about how you screamed like a little girl.

Last night, I received a text and a picture from some old co-workers at the Highland Park FD. The text said that they had been talking about me (most likely making fun of something I did) and that they missed me and hoped I was doing well at the academy (I have not seen them since I started with Detroit 13 weeks ago).

The picture was of the five of them standing in the kitchen of the firehouse with no shirts on. It was captioned, “Do you even work out bro?”

Ya see, I have always been a fitness advocate (AKA I talk about CrossFit all day) and the guys caught me working out with my shirt off a while back .... so that was them taking a shot at me. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. It reminded me how even though I don’t work with them anymore, they will always be my brothers.

I recently left Highland Park to join the Detroit Fire Department. I am currently in their academy and I have to be honest, I hate it. I miss the firehouse. I miss the job. But yet again, I am forming friendships with guys that I will most likely have for the rest of my life. As you’re reading this, I’ll probably be doing another set of push ups on hot asphalt with the other cadets. At some point, I’m sure we will climb into a few hot attics with each other and the pipe, then go back to the firehouse and solve the world’s problems. There’s that shared misery again.

The people on this job are what makes it so amazing. The brotherhood is what keeps me coming back (aside from the fires).

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.