Firefighting: It's in the family

When one person gets the firefighting fever in your family, it is infectious


By Mick Mayers

As you may or may not know, I am also a humble blogger on my own site, Firehouse Zen, where I talk about leading and change management.

Recently, I told a story there about my brother, who is also a firefighter, to honor his 50th birthday. A recurring theme throughout the story was our love of “the job.” We were literally raised in the firehouse; our father was a fire chief, our grandfather was a fire chief and our uncles and cousins and everyone else we knew while growing up were involved in the fire service. Our great-uncle was a fire chief, and our great-grandfather was a firefighter in Philadelphia. My brother and I, despite some teenage rebellion, were pretty much locked into an emergency service career.

(Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
(Photo/US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

It is easy to see how firefighting runs in families, probably because when one person gets the fever, it is infectious. When one becomes a firefighter, they fall in love with the camaraderie, the excitement, and the challenges. When we get around our families or friends, they see how passionate we are about the job and they find it attractive as well. I can see that if one family member became a firefighter, how their feelings about the experience would intrigue brothers or sisters who might take on a role as well, and thus the beginning of a new emergency service “family business.”

There are any number of friends I have who were not firefighters nor had any immediate family involved, but saw my enthusiasm for it and became firefighters themselves, and were fortunate to have also made a career choice of it. Two of my high school friends joined directly because of my involvement; as we stayed with the job, the three of us ultimately all served as the shift commanders in our department together. For eight years, I was the “A” Shift Battalion Chief, Jeff the “B” Shift, and Cliff the “C” Shift.

The woman I dated and who then became my wife, even though I told her I didn't date “on the job,” defied me and became an emergency medical technician. Volunteering for our EMS before the merger, for a while she actually had the highest final score for an EMT in the state! She became a Lieutenant and led a platoon for a number of years. My mother also decided to volunteer and became an EMT in that same graduating class.

If you have ever been curious about what it is like to be a firefighter and might be interested, there are often volunteer opportunities in the community. Even if the thought of dealing with some of the emergencies we face seems like it might be too much, there are needs for CPR instructors, administrative help, or any number of roles that could help your neighbors in their time of need. Getting involved may be as simple as walking into your nearest fire station and asking how to join.

As I pointed out originally, I try to engage two different audiences and bring them to understand similar lessons by appealing to what their own life experiences are. There are more things in common with your own family around the firehouse than you might imagine, especially if your family and friends are the ones donning gear and jumping on the trucks. Take the time to go to the neighborhood firehouse on a drill night and ask what it takes to get involved. There are plenty of spots needing to be filled. You could be the start of your own firehouse dynasty.

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