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What's your legacy?

I am once again saddened by the number of our brothers who are going to work and not making it home. It seems like this year has been particularly bad, especially with the California fires. We are losing America’s firefighters at an alarming rate. Some of our brothers are being killed while they are deployed and defending our freedom, some are fighting the fires on the west coast and some are happening “up the street”.

Have you ever given any thought about what type of legacy you leave behind? Recently, an old friend passed away from my former fire department in NY. After thinking about him and how he was towards others, I started thinking about myself. What kind of fire service life am I leading? Am I doing the best I can, not for myself, but for the guys that I work with?

I know that we, as a fire service, “expect” that 100 of us will die each year. What other vocation has these unacceptable figures. Let’s face it; many times these circumstances are out of our control. As hard as we might try, no matter what we do, this could be the day. We know about the risks associated with our chosen profession, but what are we doing to minimize these risks? Are you taking this job as seriously as you should? What are YOU going to do about it? Are you willing to start today?

We can easily log onto the internet and reach out to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. We have the ability to ask questions and post responses to gain additional knowledge from anyone within our industry. As little as 5 years ago, this was impossible. Find someone who can help you and ask that person a question. Then find another and do the same. Before you know it, you will have connected and learned along the way.

I once overheard a friend say that there was only one “stupid question” you could ever ask and it went something like this…..

“If you ever see me in a bar and you ask if you can buy me a beer, then that my friend, is a stupid question”. (Thanks OG).

There have been some excellent articles written recently on “Mentoring” (Ben Fleagle), and I can’t think of a better time to embrace that. Grab a probie or a young guy and sit him down. Share with him what you have learned. Do it today, it may be your only chance.

When one of our Brothers fall, we all fall. We must continue to learn and convert our passion for fighting fires and enhance our training. We must always strive to overcome any differences that exist and stop settling for the mediocre training. We must commit to bettering ourselves and each other. Fire does not care if your career or volunteer. We are building our own legacy, each and every day.

There are many acronyms in our business. Maybe I could offer another for us to think about. I know that there are more than enough to remember, but what if we stayed true to this one?

Live your life doing the right thing (FOOLS-DTRT)
Energy to train and maintain
Girth, do something about it
Attitude, find a positive one
Care about your brothers, and mean it
You’re the only one who can change you

Brothers, we are in a dangerous job. We need you to be here for the long term. Live your life today with a passion. Do it for your wife, your parents, your kids, your friends, but mainly do it for you.

Train hard.

Train often.

Train like your life depends on it, because it does.

What would your spouse, your neighbors, your coworkers say about you today?
Not at your eulogy, but about you now at this moment.
How do you want to be remembered?

Live your lives in the fire service like you have the opportunity of a lifetime; because you do. I have a friend that is often overheard saying the he is “Livin’ the Dream”. That’s as true as it can be told. We have the chance to be part of the best profession on the planet. Let’s leave it better than we found it!

So, What's your legacy?

Greg Wild
Middle TN F.O.O.L.S Chapter

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What a great expression of words with true meaning. There is so much potential in each and every firefighter out there, we all need to stop living for the moment and look at what we can do, how we can influence, contribute and give back, how to make a difference each day and more importantly to identify how to contribute each day and every day towards making any type of incremental improvement to make “THE JOB” better for everyone we come into contact with. Whether we are bosses, mentors, educators, leaders, followers or passively working on the sidelines, we truly need to give back, offer our experience, both good and bad to improve the next up and coming generation. As you stated “We must continue to learn and convert our passion for (the fire service) and enhance our training (and capabilities). We must always strive to overcome any differences that exist and stop settling for the mediocre training (and performance). We must commit to bettering ourselves and each other.” Aristotle wrote; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit and “Education is the best provision for the journey to old age”. Stay safe brother……….
Geg- I am trying to lead by example, getting the guys to train and train hard, getting the guys to do what it takes for their partners, getting the guys to love the greatest job in the world. The hardest part is finding a good mentor, at times you think you have found a mentor but it is the wrong one and you get wrapped up in the wrong things. However, I must say that Booby has out out his and to me and been a true mentor to me, as he is the example I go by. 2008 I have done my best to lecture and support the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. Look at to see how I have tried to do that. In the past I have handled issues wrong, but it was the only way I knew how to handle them due to having the wrong mentor. That has been hard to over come, but I am on the way to changing that. I have changed my unit to becoming one of the hardest training units on our department. I get called a squirrel and stuff but I know I am doing the right thing! I can't change it if it is RIGHT! The fire service is the greatest service in the world and together we can make effective changes. Together we will win the battle and over come obstacles that are brought to us. I am a FIREFIGHTER and I am proud to say that. Todd
Furthermore, I want my legacy to be for me to be a good man that always had your back Todd
Brother Todd,

I often tell my guys at work that I golf. Each time I approach the ball, I hope to hit it true and in the direction that I want it to go. But, that's not always the case. Sometimes it slices and the shot misses it's mark.

Making decisions in the fire service is a lot like this. The more you make, the higher percentage you have of missing your mark. Expect to make some mistakes along the way. That doesent always mean your mentor was wrong, just your normal and your trying. Don't give up on yourself, keep doing what your doing. I think your making a positive differance!

Find several mentors. Sit with them. Talk, but more importantly listen. Then, your game will get better!


I really appreciate your thoughtful posting. To follow-up, I believe it is all about choice. We can choose to do what is right, it is often about making a daily choice to pursue what is best for your shift, organization, family or self.

I must admit that I don't frequently think of my own Legacy, I guess I give more thought to my shift, my organization and the greater fire community. My concentration has been to bring attention to "four key areas" that lead to firefighter injuries and LODDs. I believe every firefighter and especially company officers can have a direct impact on the safety of our members and directly impact LODDs and injuries if greater attention is paid to these four key areas. The Fallen Firefighters Foundation 16 life safety initiatives are excellent and provide a roadmap for the national fire service to reduce the sad numbers; however, I am often asked “what can I do”?

There are four areas that account for a majority of the line of duty deaths and injuries in the American fire service (below). I believe that we can all have a direct impact on each of these four areas. Make a daily choice to address these and other issues.

1) Accountability. It is not really about a system (passport, tags etc...) it should be more about maintaining three things: contact by touch, voice or sight. If any of these are lost, accountability is lost. The company officer is the vital link (as in almost every area) to good accountability. Company officers need to instill a respect for discipline (not punishment) on the fireground that eliminates freelancing and leads to close accountability.

2) Fitness, Rest and Rehab. I believe it is our duty and obligation to each other (brothers and sisters) to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of fitness and wellness. We are all we have when our best efforts and training are not enough to keep us out of harms way. In the end, we must be able to count on each other...... We must do a better job resting and rotating and "actively" rehabbing our members.

3) Wear your seat belts and protect your people on the road. Don't wait for the Emergency Traffic Control program to be "hammered-out".......we don't need an agreed upon formal program. Position that big red truck between your people and those that will hurt or kill them. We can work on specific blocking techniques and add vests, cones and signs.........for now Block, Block, Block.

4) In order to make solid, reasoned risk benefit decisions, officers and firefighters need to arm themselves with an extensive knowledge base in building construction, fire behavior, reading smoke and other readily available training topics. It is clear that we are not doing a great job a recognizing rapidly changing fire conditions,,, spend more time on the basic building blocks that will provide the information necessary to make good, informed decisions on the fireground.

As a Field Staff Instructor for both the Illinois Fire Service Institute and the Illinois Fire Chiefs, I always take some classroom time to discuss these and other safety related issues. I often start the class with introductions and ask each student to discuss what single change they would make to improve the safety of members of their Fire Department. This always leads to interesting discussions.
Thanks for the posting. I love it when I hear or read something from someone who "gets it". The job is bigger than the players. Folks who realize that being a firefighter is something of a gift and are ready to give back to what our predicessors have built help keep me energized. Demanding excellence from ourselves will produce watershed that touches the fire service as a whole. I read in a book on Chaos Theory, "A butterfly wing flapping can cause a tsunami a 1000 miles away." We often hear firefighters say, "If I could save just one life, it makes it all worthwhile." What we need to realize is that WE are part of those lives that need saving. Keep up the good work, and thanks for giving me a lift to do my best today.

Thanks for taking the time to add some very important key points. Too often we simply come to work and really don't address the issues that you have named. We (11 of us at my station) signed the seat belt pledge. Once everyone has taken that responsibility, that allows them to easily tell the guy who is from another house to "buckle up because we have signed the pledge". It simply allows them to take ownership. It's also very contagious!

Thanks for your insite, I appreciate it.
Brother Chris,

Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. Maybe the next time you go to a call, and everyone is wearing their set belts, that would be great place to start with your guys taking ownership. Less than a month ago, I am responding to a fire and my driver hit a car. Things change that fast. Now, every time I go through the same intersection, I crap my pants and forget my name for 30 minutes. But, we are still buckled up!

As far as saving lives. Allow me to share this. Maybe you already have.....

If you ever convinced anyone to walk the treadmill, or workout maybe your already have
If you ever made sure your crew had all their PPE on properly, maybe you already have

If you ever trained someone in self survival, maybe you already have
If you ever just listened to someone with a problem, well, you know
If you ever were a role model,.....
If you ever told your driver to slow down (or maybe you were the driver)......
If you ever entered all intersections making noise,.....
If you ever shared your experiences with someone, even if it embarrrassed you, maybe you already have

What I am trying to say is this. Saving a life, doesent alway have to be a victim of fire, drowning, extrication, etc... Maybe by doing the right thing, each and every day FOR THE RIGHT REASON, that you just maybe saved one of your own who will be with you today. You never know.

Thanks for responding my friend,
Be Safe,
You couldn’t be more on the mark, Captain! What we leave behind in our wake is just as important as the future decisions (and actions) we’ll make… sometimes, more so. We all use tools to perform our jobs, consequently, we all have personal tools that we can use to lead or change behaviors. You may be a prolific speaker, motivator, or writer – in my case, an artist. Most likely, it’s just someone with a love for the fire service, the family, and a desire to leave it better than he/she found it. We all possess tools that we can use to make a difference - you don’t need to be a fire service icon for people to listen to you.

Thanks, Captain!


Thanks for the kind words. I have been a fan of your work for years. I often share your pictures and use them as motivators as well. It's not uncommon for me to simply hang one, each month on our training board.
Where does your inspiration come from?

Thank you for changing the ways we all look at things!

Be Safe Brother!
Inspiration...? It doesn't take long hanging around my firehouse before inspiration strikes - my guys are quite the characters! Basically, I love the service, the culture, the history, and the "family" - it's just that simple.

Thanks for making a difference, Captain!


Very good! Your words really make a point that I think many of us don't think about. With your permission I would like to use the above for a Pass It On within our department only. I will give you full credit of course. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.


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