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Why there’s no glory in dying on the job

We are here to save lives and protect property and get out alive


(Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Michael Morse

When I was Captain Morse, Rescue Co. 5, Providence Fire Department, I expected a lot from my crew. Here’s the condensed version.

Remember this quote from Chief Croker, FDNY in 1908:

“Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”

-- Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY, speaking upon the death of a deputy chief and four firefighters in February of 1908

We have a job to do, and I fully expect that each and every one of us who puts on the uniform does that job according to the training we have received from the people who have done it before us.

I do not expect anybody under my command to make “the ultimate sacrifice.” The ultimate sacrifice in this company is spending time away from our families so that the people we are paid to protect are protected to the best of our ability.

There will be no “so that others may live” nonsense here; our first and foremost responsibility is to ourselves. If you plan on dying and making the ultimate sacrifice, do so on your own time. We are here to save lives and protect property and get out alive. When there is a chance to save a life, by all means risk your own to do so. If there is no chance, say a prayer for the about-to-be-deceased, gear up and save who can be saved.

There is no glory in dying. There will be no songs sung in our memory, no statues, memorials or holidays in our honor. We are no more brave than the person on the street who steps in front of a speeding train hoping to save the person who fell on the tracks, or ran into a burning house to rescue the baby. Courage is everywhere; when called upon average people do extraordinary things. We are simply blessed to be called upon often.

I do not want any “great” firefighters on my crew. Great firefighters get good firefighters killed. Leave your greatness at the door, and come down to earth, and be a good firefighter.

We have chosen this vocation; nobody put a gun to our heads and made us do it. We are firefighters because we want to be firefighters. We understand the risks, and sacrifice, and take on those risks and sacrifices of our own free will. In the unfortunate event that one of us falls, the rest will be there for the widow and children, not because we are great people, but because we are good firefighters, and good firefighters do what needs to be done.

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