Did you feel that this morning?
Don’t by coy.
The tones dropped and you didn’t make the call. Before the first truck could announce “in service”, you were already fabricating your excuse.
But, we know what’s going on, don’t we?
That adrenaline rush that once propelled us to “firefighter of the year” is only a gooey mess of poor descriptions of what is now poor performance.
There was a time not so long ago that you felt like your little village needed you; needed you so badly that you were willing to go out and purchase your own gear, including bag. You were going to carry your gear with you at all times, because you didn’t want to miss a call.
Besides that; you had the Bearcat Programmable Scanner Ultra that would alert you to the slightest activity within a three-state area. Quick disconnects allowed you to plug it in at home AND into your vehicle.
You would arrive a half-hour early for department meetings. You would go into the truck bays, open compartment doors and learn what equipment was in which truck.
You signed up for every training school and would bring a box of doughnuts to every one of them.
Car wrecks, alarm systems calls, field fires, fuel spills at the gas station and the rare, house fire and you were there at two in the morning or two in the afternoon; it didn’t matter.
When the rest of the department needed a push, you were pushing/pulling/cajoling those who weren’t like you.
“What’s the matter with them?” you would wonder to yourself.
Less than two years in, you are a lieutenant and training officer. You take the department from once-a-month training to once-a-week training that didn’t include truck checks and annual hose testing. Attendance at training is less than 50%.
“That is unacceptable” is what you would tell the chief.
When the department was hurting for funding, you chaired every committee. You spoke at the grade school for Fire Prevention.
YOU were the face of your local fire department.
And then, something happened!
Money got tight and the small stipend that you got for calls didn’t make up for lost wages that you weren’t paid by your company while on a call. Too much money was leaving the household budget for the newest gadget that you would buy off of the Internet or off the table at the last fire school. Money problems were now causing problems at home.
When your young son wanted you to teach him to ride a bicycle, you were too busy teaching firefighters how to manage their air. You thought that your son would understand when he got old enough to understand, but now that he IS older, the resentment has manifested itself in a rebellious adolescent. Mom would be the one riding in the car with him while he is on a drivers’ permit. After all; SHE taught him how to ride a bicycle.
You missed meals, holidays, birthday parties, sporting events, family milestones and when you weren’t missing them all together, you had to leave in the middle of them to make a call.
And your family unit continued to deteriorate. Then came her ultimatum and you thought briefly-ever so briefly-of leaving her.
Instead, you resentfully resigned your position as training officer, but your life was still out of whack.
You were getting poor performance reviews at work to the point that you feared leaving work for calls, so you didn’t; but, you worried that the department couldn’t mitigate the incident without you.
Others on the department were stepping up to fill your void; something that you were once so passionate about.
But, you had also become “one of those guys” that you forced off of the department during your hey days. “Dead weight” is what you had called them.
It’s 2:00 am; it’s below zero outside; the tones just dropped, so you jump out of bed, grab your pager and run into the bathroom so as not to disturb the wife and determine that there would be enough others responding, so you relieve yourself and go back to bed.
Whether you know it or not, you just quit.
If you don’t know it, the others do!
What are you going to do?
Leave with good memories or the bitterness of being asked to leave?
YOU know the answer.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or my dog, Chopper.