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Working in the fire service has taught me many things. I learned how to become a solid firefighter, a decent cook and learned how to grow tough skin. The one thing I see that many firefighters do is judge others. That is what the fire service is about. From the day you start in rookie school you look around and judge the other candidates. After you get some years under you, you start to judge the other firefighters around you. “He is jam up,” “What was she thinking?” or “That crew is lazy,” are all terms that are used to judge a firefighter or firefighters’ character. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the business. Either you perform and get positive judgment from your peers, or you do not and get negative judgment. I do believe to truly judge someone; you have to look past the surface.

Judging a firefighter can come in many forms. To judge someone means to quickly form a bias and/or personal opinion about someone or something. We tend to judge others on what they have done and sometimes to quickly Experience is the first to come to mind. “What do you bring to the table?” or “What have you done?” are some of the characteristics they may be questioned. Experienced firefighters have the knowledge, but is that all they bring? Working in the fire service for 20 years and just showing up for the job can be considered experience, but what else is there?

Another way we judge is certifications. Many firefighters and fire officers judge others on what credentials they carry with them or how many letters are behind their name. This judgment can be considered materialistic. Materialistic judgment is caring more about what certifications they have than who they really are. “This firefighter is a Paramedic, Haz Mat Tech, Rope Technician, Dive rescuer, Fire Instructor….etc.” Looking past the certifications or titles, what do they bring to the table? Anyone can take a 48 hour class or teach someone to tie a figure eight on a bight. Certifications are just that, a piece of paper that states you were taught something and now you are expected to know that information.

Ultimately, I believe judging someone should be more about passion and what they truly care about. Passion is the ultimate certification. Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just being experienced, excited, or enthused. Passion is the ambition that is materialized into action and putting as much of one’s heart, mind, body, and soul into something as possible. Passionate firefighters truly care about the fire service and what it stands for, and desire to become the experts at their craft. We shouldn’t judge someone because of their titles or certifications they have. We shouldn’t judge them because they ride a certain rig or how burned their helmet is. We should judge them for their passion for the fire service.

There are many firefighters out there that truly care for what the fire service means and what it stands for. I like to think that I am one of those firefighters. Judging someone is very easy to do. It does not take long to formulate an opinion about someone and run with it to others. Next time you work with another firefighter, look past the surface of certifications, appearance and experience and ask yourself, are they passionate about the job?

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