Are We Off Limits?

Nobody on this planet can ever accuse me of not having a heart and soul steeped in the tradition of the fire service.  And an LODD is no laughing matter.  But when the satire site The Onion lampoons a fictional firefighter who dies in the line of duty because he sucks at his job, is it really worth the collective ire that I'm sure will arise from it?

It's satire, and while you or I may find it distateful, it's not like the site says that firefighters themselves are idiots.  If you choose to read the post, the story is that this fictional firefighter survived in spite of his complete incompetence, failing to wear turnout gear, etc., but the reality is, it is satire.  The Onion has tackled virtually every celebrity and institution on record, including every known religion.  So what makes the fire service off limits?

What isn't satire is a real LODD.  And what isn't a laughing matter is the real issues behind a number of the causes of these incidents, which seem to me like an annual recitation of what we tell firefighters not to do, yet, they do anyway. What should be the routine fire becomes a nightmare because we neglect to use a means of accounting for our personnel.  Or we fail to recognize the signs of imminent collapse.  We lose firefighters because they fail to wear seatbelts, which after the number of appeals to correct, should long be a non-issue anymore, yet it still happens.

So while the fictional "Stuart D'Abarno" rushed into buildings without his PPE, nearly died during training drills, burned his hands on hot door knobs, backed into things with the apparatus, and set grease fires in the station kitchen, we have real-life people who do these things with and without consequence.  And that is incompetence defined. And you know, if they die in the line of duty, instead of saying, "Wow, what a screw-up", we celebrate them as heroes.

We should instead focus our outrage on the real people who make the brotherhood look bad by their lack of professionalism on a regular basis.  We should actually be glad that The Onion didn't decide to take on some even more embarrassing moments for the fire serivce, like firefighter arsonists, or fire chiefs taking from the till, or firefighters getting caught running a prostitute ring out of a station. I mean, really, isn't truth stranger than fiction? 

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Battalion Chief with Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire and Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

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