One reason for becoming a firefighter is the thrill when the public sees us as important. The power of being a firefighter is a natural high. The reality is that every time we call attention to our deeds, we are calling out,” Look at me!” When we celebrate that power, it creates a problem.
There is a delicate balance between seeking the dedicated and courageous and seeking those who do the job because it pumps up their ego. We had a guy on the job who was one of the biggest cowards I have ever met. He was full of bravado around the station, but the first time he was challenged, he whimpered like a three-year old. To the untrained, the incident was relatively tame: nothing more than a room and contents fire with a lot of noise, poor visibility, and a moderate amount of heat. The sensory deprivation, however, was enough to send this guy into a total panic, despite cool heads around him.
There are also the people who find ways to complicate jobs, making them more dangerous, rather than using common sense and good technique. There are always excuses as to why the task had to be that much harder, when the reality is there was no reason to get into that situation in the first place. Like a cop in a gunfight shot by his own people because he was out of position, when firefighters utilize poor judgment and we have to bail them out, that isn’t bravery, that is stupidity.
Our ranks should be filled with professionals who do the job not because of the glory, but because it serves others. Finding that kind of selflessness is rare these days. But if I were to suggest to you that perhaps the glory of charging into a burning building was more about us than it is about saving lives, would you buy it?
The one who realizes their limitations? Or the one who ignores the facts because they are afraid of what it will do to their ego? Whoâ€™s a coward?