We were on a roll…
Remember when the new buzz going around the Internet was all about better ways to do the job? Better tactics, little nuggets, the tips and tricks. That wasn’t all that long ago. I remember one of the websites that I really took a liking to was “Fire Nuggets” http://www.firenuggets.com Whether it was reading some Truckie tips from Chief Mittendorf or some of the late Andy Frederick’s excellent articles, there has always been something good to glean from the site. Another page I really have enjoyed has been the PugetSoundFools Forum http://www.swwafools.com/phpBB/index.php. Those guys would gather there and share all kinds of gems about cutsaws, axe work, ladders, nozzles, streams, tradition and history. Truly outstanding stuff. And never a negative word. Truly professional.
Another site I have enjoyed is FireEngineering’s Community, http://community.fireengineering.com. That was going really well until Facebook took over and literally destroyed much of the traffic there. Some of the diehards are still posting there and I need to follow their example and do my part to keep it moving. It had the excellent quality of “accountability”. The guy runnin’ his mouth was fully visible to everyone. That’s good. Keeps most folks humble and under control. It would give great satisfaction to see a “member” that was obviously not a fire instructor or firefighter at all confronted by Bobby Halton or the webmaster and reminded that it was a site restricted to those who had some credentials. Produce or get off.. I like that.
But lately, it seems like much of the good will, the good advice and quality essays are being lost in the flurry of blogs and websites devoted to the “Our Cause is Just!” bunch. Everyone seems to have a flag to wave, myself no exception. The flag waving these days is gettin’ a little annoying if you ask me. There are several hot button topics; VSP, VES, Physical Fitness, Safety Initiatives, take your pic and it won’t take you long to find someone on the attack. And it comes from both sides. Kinda makes a fella feel a little weary. I have my opinions on all these subjects, but it is not my forte to write about them, I don’t feel as though I can add a whole lot and I don’t feel like slingin’ spitballs. I don’t think it helps us in our endeavor to portray a professional fire service.
There’s a brother I have come to know whom I really respect. Haven’t yet had the privileged to meet up with him, but one day I’m sure we’ll pull it off. This guy can write some good stuff and I like his take on things. He’s in the aggressive camp, but not so far off the board that I can’t relate to him. That’s why I like him, I can see where he’s coming from. Lately he’s been feeling like writing is useless. I can’t blame him, I sometimes feel the same way. You get that eerie feeling that you’re just pissin’ in the wind, and they’ ain’t nobody listnin’..That what you’re trying to say is falling on deaf, hell bent ears. Stubborn brothers exist on both sides of the fence with these issues. And the thing that tilts my cup is that even when the “Cause Is Just” and the argument makes sense, it is said in such a way that it offends, affronts and turns away those who the writer is trying to reach. Just because you can use your blog to inflict unprofessional attacks on the opposing side, doesn’t mean it is right or productive to do so. What do you hope to achieve?
Well, I really respect this Brother and I don’t want to see him stop writing. I reminded him that there has to be voices of reason amidst the mud slinging and that is what he clearly excels at. His voice is needed at this time.
He was having a bad day. I’m sure he’ll keep writing. But the frustration was palpable. Now, I know you could just click your mouse and leave it all behind. After all, there are hundreds and thousands of firefighters who care not a bit for what is said on all these websites and blogs. But if you’re on here, then I assume you have a message, a standard, a flag to wave. The people we want to reach are usually not the people reading, but those who do not read, do not pick up a journal, do not listen. Not to mention ( I don’t want to digress, but…) the videos we feed on. Chewing on each other. Don’t get me wrong, excellent teaching material and great learning to be had. But some of these videos attract the lowest of the internet creepers. Yes, someone screwed up, but hang around most departments and someone will do that, why is it such a shock?
We’ve got how many thousands of fire departments and firefighters in this nation? Do you really think that attacking your fellow brothers for whatever infraction, is going to solve all the problems generated by thousands of firefighters? We can’t even get everyone to put on all their gear, let alone read an article. Some of these writers seem to think that everyone has adequate manpower and everyone is allowed to be as aggressive or as safe as that particular writer thinks everyone should be. We are an arrogant bunch, aren’t we..
Recently it really saddened me to see an article that stepped out there a bit to try and bring some common sense to the safety crowd, miss-used by a very young, inexperienced firefighter to take a slap at Chief Goldfeder. The hue and cry? “Take your safety talk and shove it, Chief!” That set me back. I like Billy. He has really opened my eyes to some of the careless things we do. Do I like everything he says? No. Do I admire him for what he does? Hell, yeah! But just like everything else in this job, you have to size up what is being said and see if it applies and where it applies. The comments of one young wildcat may not mean very much, but there are thousands like him. Be careful what you write, brother. You have a responsibility to the greater good. The thing I really admired about the brother I mentioned earlier is that he understood professional restraint in writing and in the public eye. He could have confronted his detractors on the web. But he didn’t. He did it in private and the result was a retraction of the comments that led to his frustration. We want to be considered a profession. We who write are sometimes the most visible. We had better be the professionals we claim to be.
Give it a break. Write something that will help, not hinder, not offend. Build your brother up, not tear down. Like true family, we are all prone to squabble amongst ourselves, but as a writer you are taking on a great responsibility, influencing younger firefighters that don’t have the life experience or common sense to keep them from abusing what you’ve written.
Look. I’m a small town fire captain. My name is Ben. Not very heroic or galvanizing. I’m not an expert at anything. But I like to write and I believe in my brothers and their ability to do the job. So I write to guide them, with my point of view. My spot on the Internet doesn’t make me some sage fire guru. Far from it, I’m still learning. Some of the most aggressive firefighters in the area (and the most reckless) are watching over my children and my wife when I’m on duty, twenty miles away. I worry about those guys, I don’t like everything they do, but I know they can fight some fire and I know they will do whatever it takes to get to my family should the need arise. I rely on them. My department? We’re nowhere near as reckless. Our officers are older, many years of experience, aggressive when necessary and entirely dedicated to keeping our members alive, healthy and free of unnecessary, life robbing cancer and injury. We will do whatever we have to do to get to the people that need our help. We’re just firemen, and some of us give it everything we’ve got and then some.
I’m a little tubby these days, although I do work out and I have a very healthy, doctor tested and approved heart.
Sometimes I breathe smoke at a job, although I never do it intentionally…
I try to lead by example..
I never stop trying to learn..
I would lay my life down for my men.
This is my “Cause”.
And I do shamelessly call them “Brothers”, because by doing so, I am less likely to attack them and more likely to lead them. For to do otherwise would be to deny myself. Many abuse the word “Brotherhood”, I hope that in my writing I have not given that impression. I started writing about Brotherhood because folks liked my take on it. The day I betray that, I will stop writing. I will let you the reader judge and I promise, …I will not be offended. I need some coffee.