To the Recruit Class #9

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I originally published this in November for Recruit Class #8 and I felt it was fitting to reprint it for the newest recruits in Roanoke. I will have pictures up and as story about #9 by tomorrow hopefully.


This is an open letter to the Recruit Class which have joined their Brother and Sister Firefighters of Roanoke Fire-EMS this week. First of all, I would like to welcome you to one of the best Departments in the United States. I hope that you enjoy a safe and healthy career.

You are about to embark on one of the most honorable professions in the World. While you may not experience a Hollywood “Firefighter” career, I can assure you that the script is empty. None of us know what will be asked of us at any given moment.

You need to be quite sure by this point that you are willing to reach as far into the grey area of risking it all to save life. You may never be put into this situation, but if you are, you will not likely have the opportunity to ponder the situation long.

Running into burning buildings is only a small part of the job these days. Gone are the days in the 70’s and 80’s when America was burning. The decrease in fires has been replaced with a different kind of structure fire. Now we have fires that burn hotter, buildings that crumble faster, and older buildings which have been cut-up for uses they weren’t designed for. However, technology has been our advantage the past quarter Century. We have been equipped with better turnout gear, SCBA, Thermal Imaging Cameras, and directives on saving our own.

This day in age we are more often tasked with making crucial decisions at the scene of EMS calls. The legal responsibilities of being an EMT, EMT-Intermediate, or EMT-Paramedic are not to be taken lightly. You will have to find the ability to perform at your best all hours of the day even after running the “nonsense” calls in the wee hours of the morning. You will have to be able to perform at your best, while the people you are caring for are experiencing their worst. You have to be unbiased to everyone, including criminals, as much as we would love to be the jury. We have to walk away from our worst calls intact, both mentally and physically, so that we can answer the next.

Do not expect a thank you, a job well done, or an at-a-boy. They are few and far between. Rest easy in knowing you did the job to the best of your ability and always learn from your mistakes, experiences, and triumphs.

Always strive to learn more, and be willing to listen when someone is teaching you. Some of the best knowledge I have learned has come from someone telling me of their experiences. You haven’t done everything, you don’t know everything, and you never will. Once you realize this, you will understand firefighting.

Honor your brother/sister firefighters as family. Do not take someone else’s opinion as your own, take the time to form your own opinions. Develop your own style, and learn the better things from your acquaintances. You will meet others you don’t get along with, or don’t agree with. There is still something to learn, everyone has a story.

Remember that when you come across a firefighter at the end of their career and they are not as gung ho as you, they were your age once. They did their time. They have been there and done that, hell they might even have the t-shirt still. They have a lot to teach you. You have a lot to learn.

I wish you well in your career and I look forward to working with you all.

- Rhett Fleitz

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