This may be one of those jobs you wanted to have all they way back in kindergarten. Pushing the fire truck around the classroom carpet, imitating the siren sound, knocking over Betsy Conner’s pink convertible so that your unit could be the first on the scene. But then you got older, and perhaps you realized that being a fire fighter wasn’t quite as glamorous as you once imagined.
Glamorous - perhaps not. But commendable, courageous, and esteemed by all? Absolutely. There aren’t many jobs more dangerous or physically demanding, but if you think you can hack it and you have a deeply personal, genuine desire to help others even at the possible cost of your own life, then this is well worth a think.
Obviously, this isn’t for most people. The majority of the masses are content to while away their working days in an office, courtroom, hospital or laboratory, plugging away toward retirement with little worry as to their physical well-being. However, none of the people working in these locations garner quite the same level of respect or admiration of the general public - even doctors, many of whom save lives every day, are not considered quite the heroes that fire fighters are.
This photo taken by an actual fly on the wall.
It’s all about the sacrifice, baby. People know that you are putting the lives of others before your own, and most individuals - even though they wish they were that altruistic - are well aware that rushing into a burning building is something they could never bring themselves to do unless their own loved ones were in danger. Some of us wouldn’t even climb a tree to rescue a cat. In fact, one of us may have even put one up there.
You are not only sacrificing your physical well-being. You are sacrificing your quality of life as well. First off, you're not going to make much money. One might think that a guy who hurls himself into harm's way to save a complete stranger would get paid something a little more commensurate with the nobility of his occupation, but our world isn't set up to work that way. Because as a firefighter you don't need eight years of school and a brain the size of a watermelon to perform your job, you're never going to be flush with cash. You are also sacrificing much of your personal and social life. The hours will often be long and grueling. Frequent 24-hour shifts and 50-60 hour work weeks are the norm. The firehouse that employs you also feeds and shelters you much of the time; it's kinda your second home. If there is a large wildfire in your area and additional help is needed, it may be all hands on deck for a week or two, and you may have to go on just a couple hours of sleep throughout that time. The only thing more dangerous than fighting a raging fire? Fighting a fire on no sleep. Good luck with that.
It takes a uniquely strong and courageous type of individual to become a firefighter. You must demonstrate that you would have no qualms about putting your own life in danger for the sake of others. Because of this, firefighters tend to be altruistic, kind and considerate people. They may act a bit bawdy and rambunctious at times, but that's just to keep up appearances in front of the other guys. At their core, they are great big teddy bears. If you see one of them, go ahead and give them a snuggle.
They’re cute, but… we’ve seen Toy Story 3. We know this ends badly.
Lastly, you must come to grips with what your bravery might entail. If you are fortunate, you become a local (or national) hero, you escape danger and live a long and fruitful life as an venerated member of our society. But if you are unfortunate, it could mean an early end to your life. Be sure that you are willing to leave your family behind to deal with the loss, and the difficulty of moving on without you there to take care of and provide for them. Your wife might love the way you look in that uniform, but she probably doesn't want to see you buried in it.
So that we don't end on a sour note, you really are doing something honorable and important when you decide to become a firefighter. We tip our fire retardant helmets to you.