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Smoke and Mirrors: Stop calling firefighters "heroes."

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  • #76
    No one was bashing you Cavemutt. You used poor judgement in posting his address. Yes it's not difficult to obtain certain types of information online, but it really wasn't necessary NOR does it excuse your actions. If you consider constructive criticism to be "bashing" then you have my condolences.
    To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world.

    IACOJ-WOT proud

    GO WHITE SOX!!!!!


    • #77
      Any more direct personal information we removed from here within 25 minutes of it appearing, as it is clearly not appropriate.

      The posts the author made in other forums about people calling him with threats, etc. were posted on MSN long earlier.

      Anyone, firefighter or otherwise, who verbally or physically threatens the author, should truly should be ashamed. Its one thing to criticize and strongly disagree -- and there has been great debate here and elsewhere -- but if anyone truly is calling and threatening harm, etc. they do the firefighting community ZERO good ... and they certainly aern't anyone's hero.

      Dave Iannone


      • #78
        This article was very interesting and does bring out some of the misconceptions that very uninformed people seem to perpetuate.

        It is understandable that someone with a narrow view on life (apparently the author is associated with a sports publication)would write something like this. He probably thinks that people who pay sports on the weekends and make million dollar salaries are "heros".

        I can overlook the author's obvious slanted view on "real heros" (which, by the way, are not only the FFs who rush into a burning building to say a child)as he has never seen the good that a FF or EMS provider does for their community in helping out when somebody has a personal crisis.

        The author also needs to look back at some of the comments made by NFL football players right after 9/11. I remember Tom Brady of the Patriots being on TV and stating that "This is just a game. Those people (firefighters, ppolice officers, etc.) are heros every day".

        (Note to self: cancel Sports Illustrated subscription)


        • #79
          Calling Firefighters heros

          It makes me mad to read something so stupid. Ive been in the fire service for over 12 years with the Air Force for four years and 8 years with the City of Hickory North Carolina. Its not a big Department but we still run about 15-to- 20 calls a shift. To me we are all heros for just taking a job were you may not come home to your family. Im also on an Honor Guard Team, we travel every year to Emittsburg to honor our fallen brothers. if the author could see the emotions in the fammilies faces and all the honor guards up there he may understand why we honor them the way we do. I have attended a couple of fallen firefighter funerals and also been apart of them as a honor guard member. The families always want the fire service to honor thier love one the traditional way. One of the greatest sites is the two ladder trucks raised w/ the american flag between them. The author has alot to learn about firefighters way and thier daily tasks that each one has to encounter each shift. Yes alot of us have second jobs when we are off duty. But I cant retire until I have 30 years of service and I still Have to make more money someway besides the fire service to make it. Most firefighters are under paided so the have to make it up the best way they can but the firefighting job always comes first for the most of us. As for dangerous jobs we are in one of the worst for what we go threw to do our job and help those in need. Everytime the alarms sound we put our lives on the line for someone else. So Mr. Author you have alot of research to do about our job and the way we are seen by people. You may need to find yourself another career besides writing things you dont know anything about. GOD BLESS ALL MY FELLOW BROTHERS AND SISTER


          • #80
            WebTeam - kudos for removing the personal information.

            Like PFire23, I read the threads on the Slate site. Boy, can we quickly become a mob or what! Here are some of the author's postings from the Slate site:

            Subject: RE: Mr.Gantenbein's Profile
            From: douglasg
            Date: Nov 2 2003 8:09PM

            This has become painfully obvious: You people are crazy. The bullying, the intimidation, the obscenities, posting personal information and inciting people to "go get him," the effort here to "get even" by harassing people who had nothing to do with this -- all of this says far more about the "profession" of firefighting than anything I could have said or written. Children who have gotten their way too long is what you are. Children.

            Here is the link to that Slate thread:


            Subject: RE: TO: medic002
            From: douglasg
            Date: Nov 2 2003 8:13PM

            Yes, I have learned a lot from this experience. I have learned that:

            Firefighters cannot tolerate criticism.
            Firefighters will bully, threaten and intimidate in an effort to "get their way."
            Firefighters believe getting even is a perfectly appropriate way to express displeasure.
            Firefighters speak mainly in obsecenities.
            Firefighters cannot spell.

            What other "take aways" can you suggest?


            Subject: RE: Refer to2:14 posting doug
            From: douglasg
            Date: Nov 3 2003 2:34AM

            Not a nickel. (response to a question of how much Slate paid him for the column.) Am sitting here in wide-awake amazement at the world of firefighting. A few reasonable people, plus a bunch o' nuts.

            (the nuts included at least one phone call threatening to burn his house down.)

            I called Slate editor Jacob Weisberg at his New York office this morning. I was requesting permission to use the article as a reading for classes I am teaching at George Washington University and the community college. In the process of getting this done, I included this observation:

            "I found some of Gantenbein's descriptions of city firefighter work cruel and inaccurate generalizations. But it is a point of view I want my students to hear and consider."

            No kidding, I was angry after I read the article. But if we do not consider that some people DO think that way about us, then we create a huge blind side and reduce the effectiveness of our "propaganda."

            Many of the points in the article are valid - cruelly stated and skewed to make his points.

            I did not like the article, but I am more distressed by the responses. Smooth move, calling his home and threatening to burn it down.

            Mike Ward


            • #81

              Welcome to our forum. I give you credit for coming here to openly admire what you have started. Posting the fact you are reading these responses which, you are aware, will keep them coming for quite some time shows some stones. I’ve read about your book and can assume you spent some time with firefighters as you did your research. You learned about their tactics, equipment and saw them at their jobs. You ate with them, talked with them and likely responded with them. You were, for a brief time, part of their family, though not a blood relative. You wrote of their work in the summer of 2001 as a first hand observer. Then came the wildfires of 2003. You were no longer part of the family and did not get invited to the family gathering. This has left you bitter and you lashed out with your, ink filled, sword.

              In an effort to make your point that we indeed are not all heroes, you followed the lead of the O.J. Simpson prosecutors and framed a guilty party. We would be the first to agree that we are not all heroes. At the same time we have the opportunity to witness heroic acts on a regular basis and see the men and women who perform these acts shrug them off with little credit taken. It’s clear your research failed to get into the hearts and minds of those you were with.

              If I could point out a few areas that you may want to re-investigate:

              Firefighting is a cushy job. 24 hours on, 48 hours off is a work week of 48-72 hours. In that time we are paid wages of a 40 hour worker. Giving school children tours and teaching fire safety at the same time is community service. Washing the rigs is maintaining extremely expensive equipment purchased by the taxpayers. Cooking, eating and sleeping are necessary to support life. Perhaps we could do without them and get back in the top ten most dangerous occupation category you seem to think is a basis of your opinion. As for your quote “In those cases where firefighters die in a blaze, it's almost always because of some unbelievable screw-up in the command chain.” You have zero basis for this statement.

              Firefighters are adrenalin junkies. This is a physiological event which the body creates in response to danger. We have zero control over it. Commonly termed “fight or flight” our body prepares itself for the demands we are about to put on it. I will point out, we use it for fight, not flight. It’s our job. We have overcome natural fears in our minds which our bodies continue to compensate for by secreting adrenalin into our bloodstream. I have never injected adrenalin into my body, only the bodies of my patients in cardiac arrest and anaphylactic shock. Please don’t call me a junkie.

              Firefighters have excellent propaganda skills. Now this I found a disturbing paragraph. You stated: “Any time a big-city firefighter is killed on duty, that city will all but shut down a few days later while thousands of firefighters line the streets for a procession.”
              A few days? I’ve stood at attention at many a funeral, but never for a few days.
              You further stated: (one absurd touch: hook-and-ladder rigs extended to form a huge arch over the entrance to the funeral hall) The widow of a good friend placed her hand on my arm as we passed under such a display and stated how wonderful and thoughtful a salute it was. Sorry Doug, I’ll take her word over yours on this one.
              We turn out in the numbers we do for many reasons. Propaganda is not one of them. First, we turnout because the family requests a Formal Fire Funeral, (which is totally their call). If that is their request we are there, no questions asked. Second, it’s a time for us all to face what we often ignore and that is our own mortality. You call it tasteless? You really are reaching on this one.

              Firefighters are just another interest group. Fighting for the best training, equipment and protocols to do a job protecting people we don’t know and may never see again. People like you, before you wrote this article and after. You do mountain rescue, right? Who supplies you, do you have all you need, is anyone helping you improve the survival of your charges??? We do this in the best interest of those we protect and we are their advocates in local, state and federal arenas where the funding comes from.

              And finally, as I read your article I braced for the passage I knew would come. When you would sling the last of your mud at the World Trade Center Recovery. Your words read:

              “New York firefighters, admittedly deep in grief over lost co-workers, exacerbated the challenge of body recovery operations after 9/11 by insisting on elaborate removal procedures for each firefighter uncovered, an insult to others who died there.”

              I can only use the response given to author, William Langewiesche. Who, by the way, you remind me of in your “controversy sells copy” way of thinking.

              “ Realistically, no one knew when faced with a piece of glutinous mass if it was a friend’s child, FDNY, PAPD or a civilian. Respect and quiet reverence for life and grief of shared death was the major aura at the site in regard to bodies and body parts. It is factually incorrect and an injustice to the living and dead to state that firefighters accorded “elaborate flag-draped ceremonials” for “their own dead” and were “jaded” in treatment of civilian dead.”

              We’re not heroes Doug. We don’t claim to be. This label was placed on us by writers like yourself. We didn’t ask for it and we certainly didn’t ask for your countering the words of your own profession by dragging us through the mud to prove your point.

              A writer, much better than yourself, once said:

              “I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man, than a fire engine” Kurt Vonnegut

              Perhaps you should begin by straightening him out then the rest of your peers. Just stay off our backs. The word hero you all threw on our shoulders is burden enough.


              • #82
                I have read that he used to work for Sports Illustrated.

                He is probly striking out at FF because of the new reputation of professional atheletes.

                They went from bing "heroes" to being spoiled psycho rapists strung out on crack and looking for their next 15 year old victim.

                In any case, we are not respected for our training and waiting hours, we are respected for the more brief conflicts with terror and danger that can mean the difference between life and death for those impacted.

                Cushy job, LOL, thats rich.

                Lets send this guy on a 21 day wildfire rotation with the Lolo Hotshots and then he can tell use how cushy that job is...

                If he comes back alive!
                -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
                -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

                -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

                -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.


                • #83
                  Here is my letter to Slate.com....

                  How dare Douglas Gantenbein dishonor one of the proudest professions known to man!!! His wielding of the pen is a despicable example of a person the "bites the hand...." If his article was meant to stir a reaction, then just STAND BY!!! He has taken a rather myopic view of the broad spectrum of duties that are provided, and, unfortunately for the general public, some people will actually believe what he has to say.

                  Firefighting is a cushy job--What does this mean? Yes, fires are down. This is due, in no small part, to the prevention efforts of firefighters, fire chiefs, code agencies, and the like over the past half century. Taxpayers pay for vigilance. As predictable as many things have become thanks to modern technology, we still live in a fluid world. If Mr. Gentenbein can predict that Mrs. Smith's house will catch fire at 3:32 PM next Sunday, or Mr. Johnson's car will crash at the Intersection of 2nd and Main at 9:30 AM next Tuesday, then I'm sure he could assist many nationwide Fire Chief's with staffing stations appropriately thanks to his clairvoyance. Tell me my job is "cushy?" How hard is writing? I believe that's what I'm doing right now. Boy, is this easy!!! Now my department is not busy by some standards, but I'll bet that Mr. Genteinbein couldn't keep up with us on my Wednesday shift last week. Before noon, we were first in on a working fire, assisted with providing the homeowner with placement services, and responded on two medical calls that required transporation of these people to the hospital. I suppose that Mr. Gentenbein had just finished his second or third latte. (That's what writers drink, isn't it?) As far as the "easy" schedule...I don't get to see my family as often as I would like, and that is a sacrifice that I've made in working a 24 hour shift. When Mr. Gentenbein goes home at night, every night, he gets to see his family. I don't. As far as starting a second career on those "days off," many firefighters are still underpaid to the point where this is not a "luxury" but a necessity in order to support their families. Averaging a 56 hour work week with the fire department along with an additional 30 hours working a day off job in order to pay the bills is not what I'd call "cushy."

                  Firefighting isn't dangerous--This makes me laugh. Yes, statistically, being a logger or a fisherman is probably more dangerous, but the dangers are known. Every time we respond to help someone, there are so many unknown variables involved that can kill us in many different ways. Loggers and fishermen can predict that some of their actions can cause death or serious injury. Being in a "people profession," we oftentimes cannot predict the nuances of the human psyche in someone that we don't know until we get there. In addition to that, we can respond to a fire or medical emergency in the nicest neighborhood in town, and find that the inside of the house is as trashed as something that you might see in the ghetto. People do things to their homes and to each other that you can't predict. Now this is not meant as an affront to pizza delivery drivers, but their risks, also, are predictable. You can beat statistics to death in order to make them say what you want them to say.

                  Firefighters are adrenalin junkies--Gosh, I feel bad about this. Mr. Genteinbein is trying to equate our profession with an "extreme" sport, such as BASE jumping or skateboarding. Guess what? Many firefighters do enjoy the adrenalin rush that comes with the job. Most firefighters also enjoy doing their job to the point that they will do anything and everything to "take care of business." Tell me that your heart wouldn't be pounding a little faster when confronted with a house boiling over with smoke with reports of people trapped. Most firefighters have learned to harness this adrenalin in order to take calculated steps that puts the fire out or provides for life safety. X-Games "junkies" are getting their adrenalin rush for themselves. We are doing it for others.

                  Firefighters have excellent propaganda skills--now this is possibly the portion of the article that makes my blood boil the most. Do writers, accountants, insurance salespeople, or mainframe technicians march to honor "one of their own" that has passed? I don't recall ever seeing this. When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, he/she has sacrificed his/her life and left a family behind. This family includes both real and fire service. These "parades," as Mr. Genteinbein implies, are a symbol to all, including the fallen's family, that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. In addition to this, the firefighter's family needs to be honored for their sacrifice and know that brother and sister firefighters will always be there. This is not propaganda. I suppose that Genetenbein would also say the same thing for the soldiers that are fighting and dying for our freedom. An arched hook and ladder with a flag is not an "absurd" touch. It is a tradition that is meant to be respected in a solemn manner. Gentenbein's implications are that honoring the Worcester 6, the Keokuk 3, and the FDNY 343 were all a bunch of unnecessary fanfare. Shame on you, Douglas Gentenbein. You have stomped on the graves of every honorable man that I have marched for in a funeral procession.

                  Firefighters are just another interest group--Please. Firefighters are the most adaptable use of resources that any taxpayer could want. If you had a separate agency to respond specifically to the combined call genres to which we encounter, the taxpayers would be in an uproar. In addition to responding to fires, we respond to medical emergencies, fuel spills, gas leaks, suspicious articles (who is responding to your terrorist incident, Mr. Gentenbein?), car accidents, industrial and machinery accidents, building collapses, trench collapses, high angle rescues, grass fires, drownings, smell investigations, just to name a few.

                  Most firefighters (myself included) scoff at being called heroes. It is indeed an honor to serve the public and have someone appreciate what we do. The true heroes are those that have made the supreme sacrifice. Although what I do every day may seem mundane and in and of itself is not heroic (and I don't wish to be placed in the "hero" column), I don't appreciate the true message behind this article: that firefighting is "just another job." I love my job. And every night, I can go to bed knowing that no matter who calls, no matter what their age or status in life, my team of firefighters will be there to do the job, and do it well.

                  Tim Linke
                  Proud Firefighter/Paramedic
                  Lincoln, NE

                  (The items written above are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those in the agencies with which I respond.)


                  • #84
                    Originally posted by PFire23

                    orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, he really wanted to be a firefighter and couldn't make the cut so he became a journalistic bastahd instead
                    Ok, I just got out of the shower, which by the way is a great place to think. While I was in there I had many thoughts on this topic. So I would first like to recant the statement that I made at the beginning of this thread. Yes, I'm a big enough person to admit that I let my emotions rule me at that particular moment, after much thinking and pondering of the said article I have come to the following conclusion.

                    Firefighting is like any other profession, there are good and bad throughout the system. Just as there can be crooked cops, slimebag lawyers, corrupt judges, pediophile teachers, coaches, daycare workers, etc., there are bad firefighters. Yes we do have arsonists among us, yes we do have those who are in it JUST for hero worship (most of us don't ask for that), we have those who are in it for the glory....... BUT the fact that is missing from this article is the reason why the MAJORITY of us are doing this job, be it volunteer or career. I do it because I LOVE helping others, I like knowing that I'm helping to keep my community and those that live in it safe, I like being a part of the brotherhood, my brothers and sisters are my extended family and they are ALWAYS there for me, I like the history and tradition that comes with the fire service, with so much tradition going to the wayside these days it's nice to see something maintains tradition, most of all I'm good at what I do. I'm empathetic to others, I am compassionate to their needs, and I can calm down a person who is frightened when a crisis strikes...... I like knowing that I can make a small difference in even just one person's life.

                    Now my challenge to Mr. Gantenbein and to ALL my brothers and sisters is simple. Let's CHANGE the way he sees us. Mr. Gantenbein, I did a research paper for college once and I used the internet to my benefit, I created a questionnaire and put it out to those who were the subject of the paper. I "created" a base for my opinion, so I'm asking you to do the same. Obviously you have formed your judgement based on things you are familiar with, or what you have seen that has given you the perception that you have; so can you open your mind enough to widen that base a bit and hear from my brothers and sisters? Really listen to what they do and why? Brothers and sisters, can you lower the defenses just a bit to constructively give Mr. Gantenbein a better view of who we are and what we do?

                    I don't judge any profession on the bad apples, that's not right because the bad seeds make up such a small percentage of the whole; all I'm asking is that you don't judge us based on the "bad seeds" you have had the displeasure of witnessing. I think if you were to ask, NOT one of my brothers or sisters would ever ask to be called a hero. I'm a hero in my children's eyes, but not because I'm a firefighter, because I'm their Mom. I don't want to be viewed as a hero EVER, I do what I do because I truly enjoy giving back to my community. I don't need to be a hero, my satisfaction comes from within and I don't need outside validation.

                    So I guess what I'm saying is, I'm willing to reserve my judgement, I am willing to say "hey, you know what, this guy has been given wrong information", are you willing to see a different side?
                    Last edited by PFire23; 11-03-2003, 01:06 PM.
                    To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world.

                    IACOJ-WOT proud

                    GO WHITE SOX!!!!!


                    • #85
                      another response

                      This was emailed to [email protected] and [email protected]


                      It is with complete disgust that I write this email. An article posted on slate.com which, apparently, was written by an individual affiliated with your organization is without a doubt the most personally offensive piece of trash I have ever read. For someone who pretends to be a legitimate journalist to write this type of slanderous, insulting, degrading and flat out inaccurate article reflects poorly on the type of individuals you have working for you.

                      I was recently involved in the type of "propaganda skills" that the author discusses. I served as part of an honor guard at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg Maryland. My fire company was paying tribute to a life member of our department and personal friend of mine who died in a fire in his own house while saving the lives of his daughter and mother. I think he earned the right to be given this propaganda by giving his life to help others.

                      I will make sure to remember the part in the article about being an "adrenalin junkie" also next time I roll out of bed at 3:00 in the morning to go pry a drunk out of their car. I just hope I don't have to leave my wife and children without a husband and father while I am out getting my next fix.

                      God bless my fallen brothers and sisters.


                      Thomas Anthony, P.E.
                      Captain, Adamsburg and Community VFD
                      Paramedic, Rescue 14 EMS
                      Structures Specialist, Pennsylvania Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue
                      Thomas Anthony, PE
                      Structures Specialist PA-TF1 & PA-ST1
                      Paramedic / Rescue Tech North Huntington Twp EMS
                      The artist formerly known as Captain 10-2

                      No, I am not a water rescue technician, but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.


                      • #86
                        Here is where you can work on your research paper

                        Enroll in Doug's on-line business communications class:

                        Basic Written Business Communications
                        This course may be applied toward the Business Foundations Certificate.
                        B CMU 301 (W) Broad analytical approach to written communications as a management tool. Analysis of the psychology, semantics, planning, and principles of effective business writing. Practical application through messages that inform and persuade, grant and refuse; plus short business reports and applications for positions.
                        Register for # 3756 · B CMU C301
                        4 credits · Distance learning (view course introduction)
                        8 assignments; $604. Enroll anytime. Douglas Gantenbein, correspondent, The Economist.

                        Last edited by Mward0; 11-04-2003, 11:17 AM.


                        • #87
                          Mike; Excellent post. That was exactly my point when cavemutt posted this guys poersonal info.

                          Plain and simple, there are people out there who don't like fire fighters. No one is required to like fire fighters. Inthe whole scheme of things, it is unrealistic to expect that everyone will throw their arms around us. Why is that so hard for some of you to accept?

                          There are a few points that he made that are true. First, there are a small minority of fire fighters who DO call themelves heroes and play off the schtick that was created around 9/11. Admittedly, most of the ones I have encountered (I interact with almost 50 FD's regularly) have been volunteer. But they are out there.

                          I also agree with some of the posters about the "cushy job" thing. The job appears to be cushy. Very few career guys complain about the job. Literally thousands of people line up to test for a job with few openings. It is that way because you love it. He misses the last point.

                          Instead of villifying this guy and giving him ammo for his arguments (bet on it...he will publish another piece about his expereinces after the article was published), why don't we step back and see if some of his criticisms might be warranted? It never hurts to take an introspective look at the inside.

                          But giving this guy ammo to allow him to paint himself as a victim is a mistake we should not make.


                          • #88
                            To begin with let's focus on the person and not his comments.
                            1. If you visit his website you will find out that he is married to his wife who didn't even take his last name.
                            2. What guy says he lives with his lovely wife and two beagles. LBJ was the last guy to do that.
                            3. He works for Sports Illustrated. If they folded tomorrrow life would go on, if the Fire Service diminished by less than 5% tomorrow this coutry would come to a screeching halt.

                            He is probably very happy that he got all the professional firemen all p....ed off. But there in lies a problem. He doesn't realize that no matter how mad he makes us, if he or his lovely (different last name wife) are involved in a collision we will respond and give him the best care that he deserves because that is just how it works. Ask the guy that we pulled out of a flattened Peterbilt rock hauler last week how he feels. He's a happy man who could care less about whether we were BBQ'n, running an EMS call, sleeping, or washing that tax payers Engine. It is all relative. He enjoys a quality of life in this country because of Military, Police, EMS and FIRE. That doesn't mean is isn't capable of still making asinine comments. He is probably already irritating someone else.
                            Engine Co. 1 City of Marble Falls FD


                            • #89
                              mongoose772 , your comments about volunteers was very out of line and very , very degrading.....you are putting a very few people that are jolly whackers into a whole group....maybe we should reply and say that all career fireman are lazy slobs...that would probably cause some discussion...but i am not saying that..mostly because i know many and my best friend is one !! all i can say is that the volunteers i know are a very dedicated bunch...who don't get paid tto do what they love..and work a job 5-6 days a week !!! i think you should be cautious..there are a whole lot more of us than they are you !!!!!!


                              • #90
                                Originally posted by firemanrobkfd
                                mongoose772 , your comments about volunteers was very out of line and very , very degrading.....you are putting a very few people that are jolly whackers into a whole group....maybe we should reply and say that all career fireman are lazy slobs...that would probably cause some discussion...but i am not saying that..mostly because i know many and my best friend is one !! all i can say is that the volunteers i know are a very dedicated bunch...who don't get paid tto do what they love..and work a job 5-6 days a week !!! i think you should be cautious..there are a whole lot more of us than they are you !!!!!!

                                Mongoose has already posted a retraction to his statement. Leave this horse lie and don't beat it any further.
                                To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world.

                                IACOJ-WOT proud

                                GO WHITE SOX!!!!!


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