In just a few short days, a time-honored tradition will once again take place. Across the country, people will spend their hard-earned money to buy sweet sugary nectar and then hand the treats to complete strangers under threat of tricks. There will be ghosts, ghouls, and goblins galore. There will be princesses, action heroes, and the ever-present “what are you, honey?” costumes that look nothing like what they’re alleged to be. Just smile and affirm them. Unless it's an old- enough-to-know-better teen who is going as the "plainclothes policeman" thus skipping the costume. Those you definitely call out.
And yes, there will be a good number of wonderful little firefighters sporting shiny plastic helmets, carrying fake axes, and tripping on oversized rubber boots. The good ones will expertly turn a two-liter pop bottle into a killer SCBA bottle replica while the lazy ones just put on their fire engine pajama pants and call it a day. (Note: there never seem to be any dressing up as truckies, though. Just food for thought.)
Sadly, though, many of those who dress up as firefighters aren't kids who just do it in late October to score candy.
The fire service is full of men and women who put on a costume daily and go to their station to play firefighter. Perhaps they have only been playing pretend for a short time, captivated by the perceived glitz and glory of the shiny red truck. Maybe they have managed to make a career in the service- only being interested in the routine compensation and benefits they receive. Whatever the length of time, they are not who they appear to be.
It’s likely that many started off with the right motives and drive, but somewhere along the lines, they discovered that it was just as easy to pose as a firefighter. Wear the right clothing, use the correct slogans, cover their social media page with fire GIF’s. They were able to convince the general public that they were, in fact, firefighters. Yet at some point, they just started playing dress-up.
The problem is that putting on a firefighter costume does not a firefighter make. The dangers of firefighting are too great for posers. The threat to our citizens is too great for this to be a merely role-playing exercise.
Firefighters read books, magazines, blogs, listen to fire ground audio, or watch videos with the honest desire to improve themselves. Role players read their contract or organization’s social bylaws looking for ways to game the system while ridiculing tactics and strategies they don’t understand.
Firefighters surround themselves with those who will make them better, not just those who agree with them. Posers are afraid to speak on their own for fear of being found out; they run in packs in order to viciously attack anyone who doesn’t look or sound like them.
Firefighters are not afraid to get down and dirty with training, duties around the station, or participating in community outreach programs that benefit their department. Costume wearers find a way to participate in the “fun stuff” or “good calls” but will not sully their outfits when it’s time for the less glamorous portions of the job or anyone around to notice their work.
Unfortunately, the public often can not tell the difference between a firefighter and a placeholder who has the right costume. They can’t see behind the mask, they just see a person in an outfit and a truck with blinding lights and loud sirens.
But the firefighters know who is doing the work and who is playing make-believe.
There can be no room in this profession for grown men and women who are playing dress-up.
Don’t be a poser, a role-play artist, or a costume expert.
Be a firefighter.