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What you pay firefighters for

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  • What you pay firefighters for

    I saw another one of those posts about somebody complaining about firefighters going to the store, being "paid to sleep" etc., so I wrote a little piece about that. Hopefully it's not too much of a rant, I just think a lot of people really don't know much about us, and I hope maybe someday more people will understand. Anyway, it's a chance for me to vent a little.


    What you pay firefighters for

    I've heard lots of comments about how firefighters are overpaid, don't really do anything, and are a drain on taxpayers wallet.

    Let me set you straight.

    You're not paying us to sleep. You're not paying us to sit out on the ramp and play checkers. You're not paying us to sit in a recliner and watch a ballgames. You're not paying us for any of the stuff we do on our down times between runs or training. You definitely don't pay for our food, and I don't care what you say about us being paid by tax dollars, once we EARN our paycheck, that money belongs to us. There's a bunch of things you don't pay us for, but here's what you do pay us for.

    You pay us for the times spent away from our family, especially on holidays. The events our children are in at school, the sports or dance recitals they're involved in. The times our spouses are left to deal with situations like leaking plumbing, or a sick child. And sometimes, despite our best efforts to balance our job and our family life, we lose our families.

    You pay us for the sights and smells that are forever etched in our minds, that will never go away. The sight of dead bodies, over a career often far more than most combat soldiers see in a tour or two of combat. The sight of parents handing you their dead babies, with the hope in their eyes, pleading that you can do something for a child you already know is beyond help. The sight of a child abused and beaten by someone that instead should be showing love to them.

    The sight of twisted mangled bodies, chewed up in horrendous crashes, looking more like bloody hamburger mixed with shredded rags, instead of a person that used to be someone's child, brother, mother, etc. The sight of a person burned so bad that their skin is falling off, knowing the agony that they will endure in a burn ward IF they survive. The sights of all the families standing around hoping that you'll be able to save their loved ones.

    And then there's the smells. The smells of the aforementioned burn victim. The smell of a house so filthy that most people wouldn't let a dog live there, but for some reason some people feel it's okay for children. The smell of an neglected and abused senior citizen who's been left to lie in their own waste for so long that the mattress comes apart when you try to lift them off. The smells that stay in your nostrils even an hour later as you try not to think about them. The smells are even stronger than the visions that you've seen sometimes.

    You pay us for telling the family that despite your best efforts, you just couldn't save their loved one. It's an indescribable thing to have to do, it's worse than dealing with the body most times.

    You pay us for the stress our mind has to deal with. You pay us for the fact that sometimes it carries over to our family, and they suffer as well. It's something that you only have to watch on TV. We'll carry some of that baggage for a lifetime. You pay us to keep on going, no matter how horrible that last run we took was. You pay us to suck it up and drive on.

    You pay us for the abuse our bodies take. Our hearts, beating hard to keep up with the physical abuse our bodies are taking over 25 to 35 years or more. Going from a resting heart rate to racing in the middle of the night, often repeatedly, literally going from zero to sixty in a minute. It's like starting your car's engine with starter fluid all the time. And that's if we get to sleep. Sometimes we don't get to sleep, or we can't, even if we don't have any runs. But life and the job don't stop if we miss getting a good night's sleep.

    Our backs, from lifting countless people, some weighing two to three times our own weight. Not to mention all the gear we wear and carry, dragging heavy hoses, lifting ladders, and the like.

    Our knees, taking the constant pounding from all that weight, climbing all those stairs, only to go back down carrying a patient, ready to sacrifice our self in case one of us carrying them slips and falls. Our lungs, that inhale who knows what chemicals, pathogens, carcinogens, in the environments we work in, despite our use of protection. And our skin, that absorbs many of the same contaminants, despite our using protective gear. And all the other bumps, bruises, burns, scrapes, sprains and cuts that the rest of our body takes.

    You pay us for the shortened life span I have because I have a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and cancer, not to mention line of duty death.

    Yes you pay us to put out fires, extricate trapped people, and save lives. We don't mind doing that at all. But we don't feel that it's really how we EARN our pay.

    You pay us to suffer and endure through all this, because you can't or won't do it yourself. And we have no problem with that, as long as you understand what you're really paying firefighters for. And we try our best to give you your money's worth.
    Last edited by johnsb; 08-17-2015, 03:47 PM.

  • #2
    Great post. Did notice one small typo...."Our backs, from lifting countless people, some weighing two to three times our own weight. Not to mention all the gear I wear and carry, dragging heavy hoses, lifting ladders, and the like." Should be all the gear "we" wear and carry.

    Anyways, excellent work. Thanks for your contribution.

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    • #3
      Thanks, I tried to check things I changed, but evidently Word missed that one.

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