Its your very first day on the job. You walk into the firehouse with a stupid grin while balancing a box of doughnuts in one hand and your PPE in the other. Some old dude with a giant gray mustache barks "What are you doing here, ya jack wagon?" Take a minute; for realz. What called you to the fire service? Maybe the excitement, the lights, the sirens, the danger, just the adrenal response? There's nothing wrong with that. I can distinctly remember my very first call in the back of an open cab Grumman responding during a thunderstorm some 15 years ago. The Federal Q winding up, the airhorn clearing an intersection, the parking brake being set, even the smell of the rain when I stepped off the truck soaking wet. I was as giddy as a 12 year old girl in the front row of a One Direction concert. Even now in some weird Pavlonian response I find myself seeking the source of a Q. Is that my truck? Are they going to a fire? Time of day, traffic, direction of travel, I try to reason the most likely scenario. Call me a weirdo. It's who I am. Odds are you're pretty weird too or you wouldn't be here.
What about today, years into your career? Why do we don our gear shift after shift, endure sleepless nights, expose ourselves to increased risks of cancer, cardiac arrest and a barrage of other physical and emotional disorders? We work second and third jobs to provide. We bathe in stress and despite our best intentions we bring a lot of it home. Why do it? There are jobs with less heartache, better pay and normal hours where we could live out our lives donning Jos A. Bank instead of Morning Pride. But deep down we know something would be missing. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing, puts it this way: "Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day." It's just who we are. Even if we never hear thank you, even if the administration or city hall dwellers never notice, at the end of the day our heads rest well on our pillows because we know we did our best to make a difference.
Some people have been talking about "fire porn" as if it's actually a thing. Maybe you've seen it mentioned, read an article or two, and even feel a bit guilty because you yearn for that working fire. I say b*******. When the wolf knocks at the door the sheep dog tunes out every distraction. The sheep can balk but he won't notice. Even the shepherds words fall on ears that are deaf to everything but the growl of the wolf. This is the moment he was made for. Do you know that feeling? The tones drop, your pulse quickens, your nerves still. You listen intently for every detail from the dispatcher all the while working through it all in your mind. Time of day, traffic, best direction to travel, other responding units, additional needs... it never stops. Heavy smoke showing, unknown occupants, you see your job unfolding. Countless drills, hours of training, and every past fire play softly in the background. You were made for this moment, you live for this day.
Porn has no value. It is destructive and manipulative. To accuse good men and women of being addicted to "fire porn" and to somehow suggest that it is hurtful to the fire service is alien to me. What firefighter worth their salt ever reads of a multiple alarm fire, a LODD, or a challenging rescue without seeking out lessons they can carry with them? Make no mistake we aren't watching porn, we're watching game film. We do it to be better prepared for when we meet an enemy that is always evolving and rarely predictable.
I'm a firefighter but I offer no apology for my love of fire. I don't wish for a single person to suffer loss of life, health or property but only the naive could believe that it will never happen. I don't ask for it but when it does come I ask to be the one who stands the gap. Fire prevention saves lives and I believe in its value. However to believe the wolf can be forever kept at bay is not in my soul.
"The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, the sheepdog lives for that day."