Common Goals – Firefighters strive to better themselves

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Nationally the Fire Service is undergoing a huge transformation and has been for the past 10-20 years. The effects of these changes are beginning to show. Good, bad, or indifferent this is what Firefighters have to work with.

1. Fire/EMS merges
2. Better Fire Prevention resulting in decreased fires
3. A National trend of younger Fire Departments
4. More stringent guidelines, laws, and regulations
5. Steady Influx of women in the fire service
6. More responsibility and the same pay
7. Pay increases which aren’t keeping up with inflation or the cost of living
8. The publics view of firefighters as jacks of all trades
9. More emphasis on schooling and training than experience and love of the job
10. Low morale due to these issues and others

The truth is that the Fire Service of 2006 is not that of any decade prior. Pay, benefits, pensions, and retirement are all issues which we are going to have to continue to fight for until we retire. At that point you should be able to say “I got what I got, and I gave them one hell of a fight to get it, yet I deserve every penny”. City, State, and Federal Governments are not going to give you anything that you don’t fight for. You have to make a stand somewhere in your career realize that you can make a difference.

This issues which opened this post are merely a comparison. Most of those issues where not issues 20 years ago. The truth is that Firefighting is not just blood, sweat, and tears of years before. The ideology of suet covered faces of past generations have grown into the need for dirty hands from training and earning your keep with elbow grease. Departments across the Nation are feeling the effects of decreased fires. This decrease has had ill effects on our pay and benefits. If the tax payers and Government Officials do not see us out fighting fires all day then they assume we are not doing anything. What they do not realize is that the increased work load that builds each year has taken the place of waiting for a fire. Couple that with the ever increasing EMS call volume and we are actually busier than past generations, only lacking in the area of fires. Try explaining that to them though.

Fire departments are younger today as well. This is in part due to the increase of firefighters in the 70′s and 80′s due to “America Burning”. Locally, we can see the effects from the third platoon being added in 1972. Most of these men have retired in the past 10 years leaving the fire departments to fend for themselves as the experience levels and job knowledge plummet. Now we rely on teaching ourselves, learning from our mistakes, and growing. This cycle will repeat itself in another 15-25 years, depending on where you are. Eventually the effects will lessen as the retirements spread out.

To help me out in what I am trying to say I will use two posts which I found in a message forum for the Chicago Fire Department. Take it for what it is worth. The first being a more crude comment on all the nonsense which has entrenched the fire department making Pride, Honor, and Tradition seem like four letter words. The second of the two speaks for itself.

“I’ve been reading this board in its new incarnation for a while now, and besides being not being filled with any real discussion, I’ve found a lot of you bickering back and forth like babies. “EMS vs Fire!!” “I’m busier than you!!” “Stop complaining!” “Waahhh!”

To me, this is the indicator of “No time on the job” or a “Cushion spot”. Sure, nobody’s doing anything real anymore, so what? Know your job in case something does happen.
After a few years of employment by the most corrupt city government in the US, you will begin to realize what is important… The performance and relationship of the team that you belong to, not “When are we going to get bunkers!” “Ambo assists suck!”
It all starts on a company level. Down on the bottom of the ladder is where it happens when the bell rings. If you come from a house full of Jerk offs and have no desire to find greener grass, hey, enjoy.
If you are content to be assigned to a house full of tired old timers who don’t want to teach you nothing, and you don’t want to leave, watch out. You’ll be eaten alive on some details.
The funny thing is now I’ve caught myself complaing too, but for all the new guys who think this job sucks, quit now… Or, give it some time and you will learn to accept the B.S. that has been piled on for years, and make the best of it.”


“The main quality that separates an average individual in their chosen profession from one who is outstanding, is the pride they take in what they do. Taking pride in oneself, and pride in your profession, are two of the most important ingredients of success. This is true in all walks of life, and this includes the fire service.

Many firefighters like to use the word “they”. (“When are they going to straighten out this company?” or “What are they going to do to improve the Department?” ) The outstanding firefighter realizes we are “they”. The way to improve your Company, Firehouse, or the Chicago Fire Department is to start with yourself. Show pride in what you do. Pride does not have to trickle down from the top, it is equally important at every level.

We are all members of the Chicago Fire Department, the greatest fire department in the world. The reason we are in this position is because of the pride the average firefighter takes in their job. We are all part of a team, and we all share the responsibility of making the fire department a better place. What have you done lately to improve things?

Pride in oneself starts with your personal appearance. Do you wear your uniform proudly or do you look like a slob? Remember, public relations is a big part of our job. The citizens of Chicago look up to you, don’t ever let them down.

How do your apparatus, tools, and equipment look? Show me a company that takes pride in their own appearance and that of their equipment, and I’ll show you a good company. If your company is less than motivated, start with yourself. Pride is contagious.

Does your company train and drill everyday? If not, why? You do not become the best by luck; you become the best by hard work. To succeed you must train together as a team. This is every firefighter’s responsibility, but especially that of the company officer. A good officer must be a good teacher; this responsibility comes with the job. Relief officers, this includes you. You are not a substitute teacher, you are an officer; the lives of your company members rely on your competence. Do your job. Training saves lives!

Officers, if you have firefighters out of uniform, a dirty apparatus, tools and/or equipment that are not maintained, and untrained firefighters, wake up! Do not be afraid to be a leader. Lead by example, set high standards, and take pride in what you do.

Lets work together as a team to improve the Chicago Fire Department. Remember when you look in the mirror, that’s not just an average person looking back. That’s a Chicago Firefighter, and there is not a more respected occupation on earth.”

Chief Steve Chikerotis [July 2003 Training Bulletin]

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