This is a letter to my associate the other day, God’s gift to firefighting.


It’s me. The one sitting next to you in the back of the fire engine. We are part of a team, you and I, and we need to work together to get our job done. We each have our own responsibilities today and I take this job seriously. There are just a few things I wanted to point out that I learned in your glowing presence yesterday.

1. You must be one hell of a fireman, just look at your turnouts. Your pants are thick with grime and soot, completely dry and obscuring the reflective security features. Your coat is just as dirty, I noticed you wiping it earlier with those cow skin gloves from the warehouse store. I mentioned how easy it is to clean and care for your gear and you looked at me as if I asked to date your daughter. I’m sorry.

2. You don’t have to race for the nozzle, great one, for it was your duty that day. My duty was to ensure you had water and room to do your job. I was discouraged when you were unable to advance the line due to smoke conditions. I could see your mask on the regulator, near your waste through my own mask.

3. When we hiked up the 7 floors on that report of smoke in the hallways, I wasn’t just feeling the doors for heat, as I’m sure you knew. Even though you raced down the hallway to the next stairwell, the officer and I were checking doors by pushing slightly against the top of the door to break the weather stripping. That is how we found the unit that had the burnt popcorn. You were upstairs.

4. Your level of professionalism is, of course, without question, but your T-shirt said FDNY. We are not in New York, unless I am very confused.

5. I was not aware that I was the problem in the fire service today. You spoke at length about the wasted seat that could have a real firefighter in it, not just “some medic.” I was discouraged by this and still do not understand what you meant.

6. After our busy night of 6 runs between midnight and 6 AM, you mentioned it was my fault we were so busy and that you didn’t believe EMS belonged in your fire engine. I was reading the paper getting ready for another day of work so I may not have heard you clearly.

7. Throughout the day you mentioned large fires at which you contributed, sometimes mentioning work I did as your own. Suddenly my work, and the work of others, is fair to claim as your own at the dinner table.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure you are the deity you present yourself to be. In fact, I now question whether you understand the mission of the fire service in the 21st century. I may not completely understand it either, but I think I have a better way to find the solution to our troubles than blaming the other guy in the rig. Even though it seems as if I’m doing just that.

Trouble is there is more than one “God’s gift to firefighting” and just as many “God’s gift to EMS” out there, but what can we do to dial down the talk and dial up the action? We’ll see.

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