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Way back in 2009, during a church service, my Pastor got me to thinking. He was preaching about baptism. He was explaining to us his belief that some faiths baptize at too early of an age. Now before you spout off how wrong he is, or whatever opinion you may have about baptism, or other faiths, hear me out first. I will try to relate and tie in what he had to say in terms of being a firefighter. I mean this not to be a lesson in religion as the pastor did, simply an analogy, nothing else. First off, you need to understand that he was talking about the story of John the Baptist and the baptizing of Jesus Christ. John believed at first that Jesus should be baptizing John and not the other way around. In the reverend's sermon, the point was that John was most holy, and Jesus was doing what he was told via his Father, and therefore just a man, a man who needed to be baptized into God's Kingdom, just like any other. The reverend went on and stated that baptism should occur at a later age. As an infant, you are baptized because you were brought there. In essence, you had to be there. Further, as an infant, you have no understanding, or any other concept of being there. How can an infant be accountable for sinning? As an adult being baptized, you have a better understanding why you need to be baptized. You realize that you need to atone for the sins that you have committed as a man and that you are accountable for them. So by being baptized you are truly asking for forgiveness and divine intervention. There are a couple of lessons in that sermon. As I thought about what he said, I started thinking about the fire service. How I came to know it then, how I know it now, and how I hope it to be in the future. We have all heard the statement, "Baptism by Fire". Back in the day, sometimes new firefighters, a day or two on the job were shown how to operate a scba, given turnout gear, a helmet and gloves and were part of the crew. They were told, "stick with me kid", "stay close and listen to me" , "do what I tell ya to do", etc. That was an accepted practice for many of us 30+ years ago. That is how we were introduced into the fire service. Many times, our first time fighting a fire was at a structural fire. Was it right? No not according to what we know now. However, it was accepted back then, and for most departments, that was a way of learning. It was a baptism by fire. If you got through that, you were a firefighter. Much like that infant though, you may not have understood anything you may have done, but you had to be there. At the same time, should a mistake have been made, ( a sin as it were) that senior firefighter might have said, well I had the "rookie" with me. "He held me back", or whatever woulda, coulda, shoulda excuse that seemed to work. That "rookie" became a scapegoat. The "rookie" couldn't be accountable for the mistake due to his lack of experience, and the senior firefighter couldn't be or wasn't held accountable because he had a "rookie". Today's new firefighter is much different. Most departments, (I would like to say all, but think that it is probably not the case), make sure that a new firefighter has been exposed to enough training hours. The "Essentials of Firefighting" is a requirement for most departments before you ever get to ride first due apparatus. For other departments, you must go through a signing off process at station drills with scba, tools, and water supply, in addition to the "Essentials". There are some departments that require you be certified before you run first due. So we have gotten better. So when we get baptized by fire, we are a little better prepared for it, than our predecessors before us. We then become accountable for our actions, no excuses. That word accountable reaches out to everyone in the fire service. To be honest, it always has. The chief is accountable to his firefighters and line officers, and they to him. The chief is accountable to make sure that safe firefighting practices are implemented at each and every fire ground. The chief's firefighters are accountable to follow s.o.g.'s and departmental memos etc. The chief sets the standards for the department and needs to set the example and follow those standards as well. That means if a no smoking memo is written, there can be no smoking in the chief's office, or when a memo is written that all firefighters must be in turnout gear when on the scene of an incident, so shall the chief. Accountability works both ways. If the chief decides not take command right off and become part of the firefighting force, that chief needs to report to the accountability officer as well and "tag in". If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander. As the sermon went on, and as I go on, one might view Jesus as a chief officer and John the Baptist as a firefighter, in the grand scheme of things. But that day, Jesus realized that someone else was in charge and he needed to follow the way that God, the Father, wanted. They each had a job to do. We each have a job to do. The biggest job we have is to go home to our loved ones after each and every incident. Jesus realized that as a "man", he was accountable and needed to do what was set forth for him to do. As firefighters, officers and chiefs we need to have accountability as well. We are all accountable to train more or as often as we can, and with our department and our mutual aid companies. The firefighter can learn from the chief, and yes, the chief can learn off of the firefighter. We are all accountable when it comes to s.o.g.'s, wearing .p.e., including scba. We are all accountable when responding and returning from incidents safely. We are accountable to each other. Most importantly, we are all accountable to our families, who expect us to return to them unscathed and alive. There is still a baptism by fire. It's a little safer, now. Gone, however are the days of no accountability. Thanks Rev.

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