Do you remember your thoughts or feelings when you put on a fire helmet for the very first time? Maybe your feelings were different than the ones being written about here, but you can follow along and reminisce. On that day, there may have been happiness, excitement, exhilaration, and anticipation on what was yet to come. Calls for help, emergency responses. Red lights, sirens, and air horns oh my! There may have been some angst, nervousness, and shyness, even though you would eventually fit in with your Type A personality. Maybe there wasn’t a feeling. I doubt that, but it is a possibility. You were proud that you made the decision to be part of a fire department. From that first day and throughout your firefighting career, be it volunteer, paid or combination, you grow into that helmet and that growth will continue until you retire. The helmet is meant to keep your head safe, but it provides much more. It presents as a symbol of protection and safety. It’s symbolic of actions like rescues and advancing hose lines, throwing ladders, and more. It is also symbolic of sadness, destruction, injuries, and loss of life. Those are some of the reasons behind the calls that go to 911, which cause us to respond. It is symbolic of a brotherhood, of leadership and tradition. It is symbolic of heroism and a duty to serve. That duty to serve is what caused us to put on the helmet in the first place, no matter what our underlying reason was at the time. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with wearing that helmet. Responsibility adds weight to the helmet. You maintain that sense of pride by washing the trucks, checking, and maintaining the trucks, tools and ensuring your self-contained breathing apparatus, face pieces and flashlights are in good working order. We work to save lives and protect property because that is our primary mission. That mission statement itself contains a lot of responsibility in and of itself. It is not only civilian lives and property that we concern ourselves with, but those of our fellow brothers and sisters who serve with us. We train to perform and perform as trained. That helmet helps contain the knowledge from leaking out from the many, many hours of fire academy and in-house training, to which we know we are responsible for on test days, but especially responsible for during our responses. And so, the helmet has gained some more weight since we first put it on. Your helmet may or may not change colors in your time. The color changes indicate a higher level of rank. And with that rank comes increased responsibility. Strategy, delegating tasks and managing the risks that go along with them. There is crew integrity, crew development, resource management and most importantly crew safety. If your helmet is white, then those responsibilities grow to department wide and the helmet takes on even more weight. However, with helmet color changes, increasing responsibilities, commitments, delegation of duties, also comes an increased sense of pride. One that you feel personally, not just for you, but for your crew and your department. You see, they too have grown and shared in the times of loss and in the times of great success with you. Responsibility and pride are in place to help set the example and to keep your head from getting too big to wear that helmet. In fact, I would bet that pride will help offset the weight of the helmet. Be responsible. Be proud. Most of all, stay safe.