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I want to begin this with a challenge to each and every one of you out there reading this, it’s a simple phrase and think about how this makes you feel. “I am not here for me, I am here for we, and we are here for them”. Are these just words to you? Is there any action behind this? For some of you however on the other side this may be your sole purpose for existing in the fire service and for that I say THANK YOU! In the past I have written about Titles, and Own It which are both important but now more than ever I notice toxic ego firefighters, and toxic ego officers. WHAT ARE WE DOING FOLKS? In case anyone in the fire service forgot let me be crystal clear, Life Safety, Incident Stabilization and Property Conservation have not gone away as the top 3 reasons to why we exist! I’m sorry but I forget where personal gain fits in there? This job is thankless and we are selfless servants to the communities in which we are sworn to protect. I am nauseated by the sight of officers that go around their “professional” organizations in an effort to sabotage specific projects, ideas, or personnel. It’s being done because they may not agree with the change or maybe it’s because they didn’t come up with the idea? Either way why in the world does this exist in our “brotherhood”. So much time is spent trying to undermine each other and back stab one another that the mission of the organization is lost and forgotten about.
I am ready to build a second box outside of the fire station next to the feelings box that we are not allowed to bring to work with us for people’s egos. If you can’t control yourself while you are at work and act in a professional manner then please get back into your car and drive home. Checking your ego at the door has got to start happening before more of us are injured or killed. Reckless thoughts and actions are invading minds and causing clouded judgment on black and white issues that shouldn’t be up for discussion. The days of being lucky rather than masters of our job are gone. Fires are too dynamic and calls for service can change in the blink of an eye and erupt into something none of us have ever seen before. If you are controlled by your ego then chances are you’re going to end up seriously hurt or seriously hurting someone else. Is that what it’s going to take? Does it have to involve a catastrophic event happening in order to change who you are as a person or who you are as a command officer? I surely hope not; we as a fire service are good enough at insanity and do not need constant reminders. However those constant reminders come in the forms of near miss reports, or LODD’s because someone’s “machoism” got ahead of their common sense or better judgment.
To the Toxic Egotistical Officer I am particularly calling you out! You were put in a position of leadership by the Chief of the department to lead, to educate, and to positively influence your crew. Those firefighters are your responsibility for 24 hours and YOUR responsibility to return them home to their spouses and families at the end of their shift, don’t forget that. Why do you go around making fun of other shifts for wanting to progress? Why do you go around spreading rumors about fellow firefighters? Don’t shake your head at me and say you don’t because you do! I don’t care what fire department you’re from we all have the same problems and issues, the names just change from department to department. To be an effective officer you have got to understand what servant leadership is! You are the example in which your crew is to model themselves after, what kind of mold are you casting? Is the department toxicity a direct root cause of your toxic ego leadership? Do some self-reflection however; warning this may be hard to deal with the truthful answers. One of Mike Tyson’s most famous quotes; “Everyone’s got a plan, till they get punched in the mouth” is spot on, and is 100% true. Until you do self-reflection and realize that you are the root problem your organization has a 0% chance at change. Some might say that’s a good thing because there are 2 things that firemen hate, the way things are; and change. The only thing the organization owes you at the end of every 2 weeks is a paycheck for the hours worked, EVERYTHING else we (you) owe to the organization and the community in which you serve stop robbing them!
It’s 2019 and “the way we used to do things” just simply can’t be the case anymore. My prayer is at least my generation of firemen will embrace the challenge of setting the example and moving the fire service forward in a positive, progressive direction. An awakening of leaders needs to happen to continue carrying on the core values and mission statements of the fire service, if not you then who? I’ll leave this as I began because to me there are no more true words than “I am not here for me, I am here for we, and we are here for them” Why are you here?
-Andrew Sauder

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