Why Are We Fire Fighters?
People often inquire of Fire Fighters, “Why do you want to do this?” or “What would motivate a person to volunteer for this strange and unpredictable profession?” The answers to these questions are as individual as the Fire Fighters providing the answers. In fact, the reasons that we are Fire Fighters will usually change as we mature and our relationship with the service changes.
The most common answer as to why we want to be Fire Fighters is that we want to help others. This is laudable and no doubt true. Helping comes in many forms and takes many faces. Most people, however, don’t all of a sudden wake up one day and say, “I want to help others, I’ll be a Fire Fighter.” The real answer goes much deeper.
When we are young there is the obvious attraction of the excitement. The lights and sirens, the crowds, the danger, and the obvious beauty of the apparatus, are all early attractions. I have had many young Fire Fighters answer the question by telling me that they simply want to fight fires and save lives. It is never really as simple as this, is it?
As we mature in experience and grow older, the attraction of the fire service begins to change. The joy of the camaraderie with our fellow Fire Fighters; the teamwork so necessary to accomplish any task (there is no room for lone rangers in the fire service); the joy of training to do a job and the satisfaction of doing it well; and the challenge of leading our Fire Fighters and managing the organization and equipment. When we were children we experienced excitement at the sight and sound of the Fire Fighters arriving and working. For some of us that will always be present.
I love this profession and always, even to this day, I get goose-bumps when I watch Fire Fighters saving lives and doing all they are called upon to do. My love for the work is only exceeded by my love for those who do the work. That may be why I have no patience for those who do not take seriously the responsibilities and mandates of this profession. I once knew a person who was paid to be a fire fighter and bragged that the only reason he was a fire fighter was to sleep and watch TV. His lack of performance and dedication clearly reflected that attitude. Fortunately, the vast majority of career and volunteer Fire Fighters have the right motivation and sufficient dedication to be able to serve effectively. As officers we cannot afford to have personnel in our organizations who don’t care, the goals and objectives are too important, the sacrifice too great!
Have you ever pondered on the word “serve” and the term “fire service”? Very few occupations call directly on the participants to “serve” and fewer still are as dangerous as firefighting. Even fewer still ask people to volunteer to serve and volunteer for the danger. Understanding why people volunteer to be firefighters is essential if we are to be effective leaders and able to recruit and retain additional firefighters to keep the service strong.
Hanging in my office is a framed quote from Chief Edward F. Croker who, in 1910, was the Chief of the New York City Fire Department. I present this to you as maybe the best answer for the question, “Why are we Fire Fighters?”
“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. This position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that, “Nothing can be destroyed except by fire.” We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world, which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are defenders from fires of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind. But, above all, our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men – the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.”
Whatever your reasons, your thoughts and motivations, whether you are a volunteer or this is your career, please remember the nobility and high ideal of what it means to be a Fire Fighter.
If you would be interested in volunteering for the West Manchester Township Fire and Emergency Service please contact 380 East Berlin Road, York, PA 17404. 717-792-3505. Your interest and effort with the Fire Department is crucial for its success. Together, as community leaders, we can make a difference.