Living Up To Chief Croker’s Ideal

Chief Croker, FDNY

Chief Croker, FDNY; Image from the New York City Fire Museum found on the Croker Fire Drill Corporation website

When Chief Croker suggested that in our choice to become firefighters, the act of professing so made us heroes, and everything after that was in the line of duty, I respectfully take exception to that. We aren’t due heroic respect because we ARE firefighters, we are due this respect when we do the job in the manner of our calling. To maintain that respect requires us to be noble, virtuous, brave, and compassionate. Lacking those, we are just someone who happens to be tagged with a job description we can’t meet. Anyone can put on the uniform. It’s living up to the traditions and expectations of our predecessors that makes us either valiant or heroic.

Suggesting Croker was wrong would be misstating his intent. He was pointing out that the profession, at the time in which he served, was a profession of heroic service. Things haven’t necessarily changed, but taking his quote out of context, which seems like some of those among us seem to do, would be a disservice to all. In this day and age, we have a number of people among us who don’t share Croker’s opinion of “The Job”. I say this because these mutts are quick to quote Croker, insisting that because they are a firefighter, the public should bow down and kiss our collective asses, but these same people fail to recognize reciprocal suggestions of sacrifice or humility or valor, except where they choose it, and on their terms alone.  Saying because you are a “firefighter”, you are a hero, means that even the slimeballs who set fires because they’re “bored” and happen to have filled out a membership somewhere get to hide under the badge as well.  I just don’t buy that.

I’m not hip to those who choose to wrap themselves in the flag of our profession but won’t do anything but criticize others as well.  If some of these trolls really had respect for the job, they’d take the time to mentor and provide positive help for their brothers, rather than subjecting them to public ridicule on a regular basis.  I guess every niche on the internet has a moron drooling on their keyboard, waiting to attack.  When I read some of these comments in places, I just want to let some of them have it with both barrels. I have long learned, however, that doing so would require my lowering myself to their level, and honestly, I’m not interested in that level.  Try being a real professional and setting an example of leadership.  Any idiot can tear something down; it takes skill to build a masterpiece.

There is no reason why insisting on a higher standard for our profession should be indicative of less-than-valiant behavior.  It occurs to me that when someone elevates our expectations anymore, we have someone from the peanut gallery shouting what a real man he is because he doesn’t use incident command, or safety vests, or whatever. Likewise, we have those who think that it’s okay to just plug along with no expectations of excellence whatsoever, and they fail to understand their need to grow, and continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.  You two groups are made for each other.  Leave the rest of us out of it.  Call yourselves something else, because you are giving firefighters a bad name.

I’ve been seeing more and more of the rhetoric lately and much of it coming from a select few. But amazingly enough, I’ve also been seeing more and more people lately choosing to call out the boorish behavior and point out that while we are all capable of making a poor decision, its those of us who find good lessons and earnestly pursue sharing education with others that I choose to call “brother”. I’m proud of you guys and its people like you who deserve the kudos.  You guys are the real heroes among us.

So if you want to strap on your wacker belt and have at it with a someone because they chose to share video that we could all learn from, have at it, Slappy.  While you are portraying yourself as the Nation’s Numero Uno Bombero, the rest of us are quietly toiling away and doing the job.  Perhaps instead of being the best firefighter (because some of you are so infinitely perfect), you can all form a fan club for yourselves and trade war stories.  There’s a term we use for that group that involves an involuntary movement and a geometric figure that I can’t describe on my G to PG-rated blog, so you’ll have to figure it out for yourselves.

In the meanwhile, if you truly want to honor the legacy of Chief Croker and the bar he set for us, you’ll be real heroes.  If you’re a salty vet, you’ll take one of these young bucks aside and show them the ropes.  If you’re the new probie, find a mentor you can respect (and others do as well) and learn at the foot of the master.  In either case, the people I consider exemplifying valor are those individuals who honor the profession and set a positive example for others not only in a burning building, but at the medical calls, doing inspections, dispatching, maintaining apparatus, and every other job necessary to do The Job.

The rest of you special ones who think you’re so great, someday too you may screw up and when you do, you’d better hope everyone else is a little more forgiving.  In case you didn’t know, hubris isn’t a type of shrubbery.  Remember: “Pride goeth before a fall”.  Don’t be the next casualty.


  • Tony Carroll says:

    Remember…you get out of it, what you put into it!!!

  • michael says:

    If we are indeed firefighters, as defined by those who come before us and did “the job,” then our choice to follow in their footsteps was in fact the only truly heroic decision we made. The rest, as Chief Croker states, is our duty.

    If we are firefighters in name only, and follow in the footsteps of those who sidestepped “the job,” then there is nothing heroic at all.

    Great post, I’m new here on the network, figured I’d stop by and say hello.

  • David Hodges says:

    Been blessed to be a part of “the job” for over 30 years and have never considered myself a hero but have worked with many who were and are.

    By simply pinning on a FF’s badge, a hero has never been made. It is the actions that these men/women exhibit in their day-to-day lives that will make that distinction.

    Training, education, experience, and never ever forgot or overlook our mentors. Listen and learn. You don’t know everything.

    God Bless every Firefighter in the world.

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