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If They Knew then what they do now

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  • If They Knew then what they do now

    I got a call from a guy the other night and it really made me sad. He told me the story of his brief probation and was wondering what to do now to get on with another fire department.

    As his wife took the crying baby from the room, he told me how everything was going great. He got along well with his captain and crew, felt like the chiefs liked him and was six months into his career. For some reason they needed to put him at another station with another captain for the remainder of his probation. That is when things took a turn for the worst.

    He made a few mistakes at drills, which is normal, but the captain felt he was making excuses. “He told me to pull 150’ and at the end there was 200’ on the ground”, I asked if possibly the engineer pulled it to make a hook-up, and all he did was yell at me”. Then he wrote me up for the way I talked to another medic on a medical call, saying I was insubordinate, while I was just conferring with a colleague. Then I got written up for the flags not being down right at 1700hrs. It felt like nothing I could do was right and now I am out of a job.

    This guy had three seasons with the California Department of forestry, and a year as a medic. Now married with a kid and he is wondering what will happen next.

    I asked him what he though went wrong and I think he hit the nail on the head. He said that when you re a seasonal firefighter you are in from almost day one. People care about your opinions and you can fit right in. Working as a medic on an ambulance you have an independence and also may supervise the EMT you may work with. When he fit in so well with the first captain, he felt he was in. It worked with his first captain but not the second.

    Here is the deal. I get a few of these calls every few months and sometimes these people had it coming, but others are just such a sad story. I have yet to talk to someone let go for not being able to do the job, they have all been attitude problems. Once you are labeled as problem there is little you can do to get back into the good graces.

    People talk about the fire service being a fraternal organization, so compare it to a fraternity. You have to spend a year trying to get in, like the testing process, then a year of being the new guy and maybe some hazing, then you are in. That is for a four year college. This is for a 25-30 year career, and your still in when you retire.

    If there is any advise I can give to someone coming into the fire service it is this. Keep your mouth shut and your ears and eyes open. Be kind and courteous and go out of your way to be unbelievable pleasant. You may not do anything wrong and still have a problem. A guy on another shift looses something and says you took it and then others are talking at other stations and you are oblivious. It’s always easy to blame the “NEW GUY”, the FNG, figure it out.

    The rumors in the fire service are faster than DSL. One of the probationary guys at my station made it known he would not be sitting in the easy chairs in front of the T.V. for the duration of his probationary period. Not a bad idea. One day we have a guy driving on overtime. He keeps telling him, “Oh, just sit down, what will it hurt, don’t be a stick in the mud”. The new guy says no he has some studying to do. As he is walking out of the room the driver says well at least your not like that other new guy “Boomer” he is in those easy chairs all day. I asked the driver if he had ever seen this, and he said no, but he heard. My new guy went and called Boomer and was told, just like the rest of his class he had never been in the chairs. Here this guy had done nothing wrong, but someone was talking bad about him at another station on another shift.

    Folks, it takes soooo long and so much work to get this job, I would just hate to get another one of those calls. But if you do find yourself in trouble you can call me, Capt Bob, call somebody before it’s too late. There way be ways to fix it when it seems to be going bad, but once you are out, there is no going back.

    Good Luck, Captain Rob
    [email protected]

    Good Luck, Capt Rob

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