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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."

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Comment by Andy Marsh on August 8, 2014 at 2:58pm

I really wish that we would change that "fire porn" terminology. Most of the videos I've watched are very beneficial to what we do everyday. There are bad videos out there and perhaps we can file them under "Trash or "Junk" t.v.  , not lump them all into a "porn" category. Fire Engineering does a pretty good job with videos, with their 'Training Minutes". Overall, one has to be scrutinous in deciding what video is good or bad. Fire Prevention does save lives. A fact of the matter is that we only have statistics on how many are killed or injured as a result of fire. We don't know how many are actually saved from Fire Prevention, but we know it works. In fact in the 34 years I've been a part of the Fire Service, I can probably count on both hands how many times I've heard that the fire safety that was taught in schools or at public assemblies prevented the loss of life or property. Occasionally we hear about the child that remembered to "Call 911" or helped his or her family out of a fire, because of E.D.I.T.H. We do know that prior to 2004, responding to or from fires has killed on average 100 firefighters per year. From 2004 to now, we've seen a few years that our line of duty deaths fell under 100. While I think that it's impossible to eliminate all line of duty deaths, I would venture to say that if we could have prevented those 100 line of duty deaths in each of those years through fire prevention or risk reduction. we would have. I firmly believe in Fire Prevention and overall Community Risk Reduction. I also firmly believe in training in overall Engine Company, Truck Company and Rapid Intervention Team Operations. We cannot do without any of these components !  Many firefighters and officers believe that the mission of saving lives and protecting property doesn't include fire prevention. They would rather believe that someone else will do it. But if it's never assigned, who will do it ?  The 16 Life Safety Initiatives that were developed 10 years ago include public education and being an advocate for residential sprinklers and stronger code enforcement. (See LSI # 14 and # 15 ) I'll even go out on a limb and state that fire prevention is covered in LSI's 1, 2 and 3, when you think of accountability, personal responsibility, risk management and the health and safety throughout the Fire Service. What we need to do is to stop making the component of " Fire Prevention" a loathed task, a demeaning task and a task that isn't filled with the pomp and glory that sends us chest bumping, fist pumping and taking selfies, well into the future, for short successes.  NYFD has a great fire prevention component. So does L.A. , Chicago and Detroit. Do they still have fires? You bet they do !  Would it help them to have many more fire prevention personnel? Yes indeed, it would. Whether you are assigned to an engine, truck, rescue, or squad company or if you're assigned to fire prevention. if we're in it to win it ! We're in it together to save lives and protect property. Brandon, I liked your article and it took me back to an earlier time. It also reminds me of the current time.  I'm going to borrow from your closing statement and say that while the sheep pretend that wolf will never come, the sheep dog lives for that day, so why not have two and have each others' backs ?  It's teamwork (Fire Suppression & Fire Prevention) that will keep us around longer !    Peace !                                                              

Comment by Bryan Altman on August 7, 2014 at 8:36am
Outstanding brother! Thank you!!!
Comment by Brandon Strickland on August 5, 2014 at 5:02pm

Bobby, I'm humbled by your comments. Thank you for all the work you do to for the fire service. 

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