For the last few weeks I've been getting several emails about my choice to become a firefighter.
Well, these emails have been positive and I thank you all for those who've written but I do feel it necessary to clear up a few things.
This is not a career choice. It's all new to me. I've never been a firefighter and it's not something I want to do for a living. I have never wanted to be a full-time paid firefighter nor do I ever want to be one. My grandfather was the Fire Chief of Camden, New Jersey a long time ago and he always wanted me to be one, but full time firefighting will never be for me. This is a volunteer fire department. I do this on a part-time, on a when-I'm- available basis. If my pager goes off and I'm at my real job, I do not and cannot leave work. My first responsibility is to my employer. If I'm home in bed, not feeling well or just had a tiring night at work, I'm going to be staying in bed if the pager goes off. The only time I would even consider something like that is if a second or third alarm would be sounded.
I've answered a lot of calls in the short time I've been with the fire department, but not all of them. If that was true I'd never be at work or get any sleep at all. There's over thirty members of my FD, and most of them answer the call most times, but a lot of them are like me, have full-time paid jobs besides this, so if I don't answer every page it doesn't meant a life will be lost or a home destroyed. Someone will be answering the page. I'm not even a Firefighter 1 yet, so there's not a whole lot I can do at many scenes. I won't be one for at least another eight months.
I do it not only for the community I live in that's given me so much since I've been here, but for a little self-satisfaction in helping some people. That had been missing in my life for some time. If I relocate to another area, I find it doubtful that I'll become a volunteer firefighter in that area. This is a one-time deal. The only reason I joined up with this group is I found a professionalism I found lacking in so many other Volunteer FD's and it will probably be difficult to find a group of guys and gals like this again. (Yes, there are a few women on the FD here and they're just as good if not better then some of the males)
You will not find me putting the firefighter decals on my vehicle or getting FD license plates. I probably won't be sporting Firefighter T-shirts (other than one I might buy with AVFD on it) or putting red & blue lights and a siren in my truck. Lights and sirens lost there luster a while ago for me. I don't get a giant chubby and blow a load in my pants when the pager goes off or I hear the sirens. They give me a headache and are annoying.
My main career goal at this point and has been for the past year and a half has been for me getting on the railroad full time, in whatever capacity I can, with the ultimate goal of becoming a locomotive engineer. That's the main reason I moved to West Virginia in the first place (Ok, there's another reason too, but I won't go there... ) and plan on achieving that goal. I'm being a tenacious little fuck in that matter and don't plan on giving up on that just yet.
Again, I appreciate the words of encouragement, but I can't give anyone advice on becoming a firefighter or what it's really like. I hope I never have to fight one or go inside a burning building. I will if called to do so, but again it's not something I really look forward to doing. If you want to be a firefighter, my suggestion to you would be to go down to your neighborhood firehouse and talk with a few professional paid firefighters. Or if you live in a town that doesn't have a paid department, talk to your local volunteer squad and join up with them.
I've found it very rewarding so far, but again it's not what I want to do for a career choice. If you do, my hat's off to you... It can be a very satisfying and enjoyable career. But I've got railroads in my veins, not firefighting.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden