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Smoke and Mirrors: Stop calling firefighters "heroes."

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  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
    Theodore Roosevelt

    This quote pretty much explains how I feel on this whole situation.
    After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one

    Official Minister of Philosophy of the IACOJ

    IACOJ Probie Crusty of the year 2003


    • Enough!

      Isn't it time we all agree on 1 thing? It's time to drop this and move on...we are probably making the guy's day.


      • To Douglas:

        As my wise grandfather used to say "no sense in being stupid unless you show it!"

        Capt. Lou


        • Firefighting not dangerous? Only an Emergency Services provider can understand how often each of us is plunged headfirst into a pulse-pounding, adrenaline induced high risk / high stakes situation. It's no wonder cardiac problems are the leading cause of death in our profession.

          Are we adrenaline junkies? I think that most of us believe that the love of our profession is not a result of an adrenaline addiction, but the desire to make a difference in someone else's life. The adrenaline rush is merely an uncontrollable reaction that each of us shares.

          A LODD by any Emergency Service Professional (I am including Volunteers in this, because when called to duty, we are held to the same high standards of professionalism that our career brothers and sisters are) is truly a tragedy. The funeral that is the result of each LODD is a time honored tradition that allows us to honor the fallen. It is not a display for the media, but rather a way to tell each other that ....but for the grace of God, go I....

          The death of a news media professional, especially at the hands of terrorists (i.e. Daniel Pearl) is significantly more publicized than an LODD by an Emergency Services Professional, as it should be. They control the media, and they will take care of their own, just as we take care of our own.

          Each of us has seen the problems caused by jurisdictional boundaries and by interagency difficulties. We know that they exist and it's unfortunate that others have witnessed them as well. In most cases, these are the root causes of the problems, not a rush to claim the glory.

          We do this because we love the job. Volunteer or Career, we do this because few are called to place their lives on the line daily as we are.


          • I think we all have a few choice words for this article and its writer....


            • After reading Douglas Gantenbein's article on firehouse.com, I too was not pleased with his remarks against firefighters. To me it seems as if Mr. Gantenbein is thrashing individual fire departments, rather, the fire service in general. The statements Mr. Gantenbein has made are of his own opinion. However, I find that he used his own judgements instead of facts about the fire service. I question if he has a personal grudge against someone. Maybe he never got to visit a firehouse when he was a child to get a free tour. I am sure from his statements that his neighborhood firehouse was just sitting around wasting tax payer dollars and refused him a tour. In order to point out how ignorant Mr. Gantenbein is about the fire service, I would like to clear up a few points he has made.

              Doug starts out telling of fire fighting battles in California. He states that fire fighters are battling blazes in 95 degree heat, wearing multiple layers of protective clothing, and doing all of this with little food or water. Yet, fire fighting is still a cushy job. He talks about how fire fighters work a 24 hour day leaving plenty of time for washing fire trucks, giving tours, sleeping, and posing for calendars. Mr. Gantenbein thinks that fire fighters are not getting the hoses out very often. Also, with their 24 on 48 off schedule fire fighters can retire after twenty years to a new profession with already establishing a pension. Doug's statements back up my idea of him never getting to partake on a fire house tour. If he did he would understand what goes on during a fire fighters shift. Well, Doug, since you do not know I will tell you. Fire fighters work a 24 hour shift because it is easier to change a company out once a day instead of three times a day. Contrary to what you think fire companies are always on the go. You say a big city fire company might run 4-6 calls a day. Well, if a big city company runs 4-6 calls during a shift than they are either a). a slow fire house; or b). it was a slow day. Fire fighters wash fire trucks and equipment mind you, because they expected to keep it looking nice. Also, it helps on the upkeep of machinery. When they are not doing that, Doug, they are busy training for emergencies that might one day save your life. Believe it or not, fire fighters have to maintain a certain number of training hours every month. Fire fighters even pay for their own meals like the rest of the population does. Fire fighters often sleep at the fire house when they have a spare minute or two because when they are pursuing their other careers, they do not stay awake for 24 hours. Which I am pretty sure you do not either.

              Doug then goes on to explain how firefighting is not a dangerous job. Most fatalities are due to heart attacks and not being physicaly fit, is how Doug views it. That most fire deaths are a result in a well documented lack in command. Well brothers and sisters, does Doug know what it is like to wake in the middle of a night to a loud bell. Then rushing into the night to put their lifes on the line for someone who they do not even know. Doug, I wish you knew what kind of stress that your body and heart is put threw from resting one minute to being wide awake and performing at max capacity in five minutes. So yes you are right, fire gets very few. However, the fire is also what causes the stress resulting in heart disease. I won't even explain other stressors fire fighters are forced into. No matter what causes stress it all has the same result.

              I am amazed that Doug views a fire fighters funeral as propaganda. Websters defines propaganda as "information or ideas methodically spread to promote or injure a cause, movement, nation, etc." I really do not see what fire fighters are trying to promote in another brothers death. If you do not know Doug, funerals are usually not for the publics partaking. Funerals are reserved for close friends, family, and the sisters and brothers of the fallen bravest. Which to you and your by-stander is just a fire fighter thing, your right it is. Invitations are not sent out for this.

              When you discuss fire fighting as another interest group, I do not even know what you are talking about to debate it. So I will not even try because I have no facts to discuss it.

              I personally am a volunteer fire fighter. The fire department is my "second profession" that I get to "retire" to after a long day at work. I get paid nothing. Moreover I am not a hero. I will not debate the fact that the little old lady down the road, who fell out of bed in the middle of the night, thinks I am a hero because I helped her back into bed. The public gives fire fighters the status of hero Doug. I do not believe we are the ones looking for a higher status in life. I hope the next time you call on a "hero" to save your butt, I hope he or she is not a tasteless spectacle of life who is looking for your gratitude for doing his job.


              • "Never argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience."
                Listen, Arguing with him or anyone else who shares his view is pointless. He will not change his opinions, and he doesn't have to. I think that most of us agree that it was not the hero part of the article that got us upset, but the fact he portrayed us as lazy, lying glory seekers. We know that this is not true. We also know that he did a poor job of research for his article and that he has done this in the past (read some of the book reviews about how his conclusions were erroneous).
                If you want to get back boycott his works and let this topic fade away. Someday he may get his, or maybe not. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we don't let the work of one journalist who did not do his homework turn us into the [email protected]$$es that he would like to portray us as.
                Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.


                • First of all, I think it is shameful when some of you threaten someone because they state an opinion. An opinion has never killed anyone. How can you claim to have the heart of a firefighter and then threaten bodily harm? What; hurt 'em; then help 'em? Is that our business?
                  I have been exchanging emails with the author of the article. He asked me not to post his address or phone number, an unnecessary request. I suggested to him that he come here to see what kind of scat storm he had created. I didn't think he'd post, but hey.
                  Now; he chose his words very poorly and used some misguided analogies, but I don't think that he dislikes firefighters. I mean; how many of you remember the Bette Midler song "You Know I'll Always Be Your Hero"? How many remember that the radio stations were playing it every 15 minutes and we all got sick of it to the point of puking?
                  Here we are rattling our sabres and discussing with each other the motives behind the article and re-assuring each other that we are a part of the noblest of professions. We are having a one-sided argument with ourselves. Most of us agree that he has a right to his opinion, which he does. And since his article was printed in Firehouse, will he get paid for it? Look at the publicity he gets now.
                  Only in America.
                  We don't have to explain ourselves to anyone.
                  He will not win a Pulitzer. We will not win public support by threatening the guy. Respectfully disagree with him. Keep the hate out of your response. We are compassionate; not hatemongers.
                  As said before, we are giving him plenty for his next article.
                  Visit www.iacoj.com
                  Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
                  RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)


                  • my $. 02

                    From the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

                    Journalism :2 a : writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine b : writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation c : writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest .

                    I think perhaps someone needs a refresher course in journalism.

                    “Firefighting is a cushy job”

                    “As fires go, the California blazes are scary. They are moving incredibly quickly through dried brush and chaparral that practically explode when they ignite, threatening the life of any firefighter nearby. Steven L. Rucker, a 38-year-old firefighter and paramedic for the town of Novato, was killed working to save houses. Elsewhere, thousands of firefighters have worked for hours on end in 95-degree heat, dressed in multiple layers of fire-resistant clothing, sometimes without enough food or water because of the long and shifting supply lines.”

                    Please tell me what is cushy about this.

                    “Firefighters are adrenalin junkies”
                    So are race car divers, sky divers, mountain climbers, the list could go on.

                    “Firefighting isn't that dangerous”
                    Today’s fire service has to be able to respond to everything from structure fires, to Hazmat, to terrorist attacks, to wild land fires, to EMS, shall I go on? Every time they respond to a call there is potential risk. Have safety measures improved in the fire service? Yes, they have. But, the role of the fire service continues to expand far beyond suppressing fires and there will always be the potential of danger.

                    “Firefighters have excellent propaganda skills”
                    Educating the public about fire safety, pushing for stricter fire codes, building sprinklers..hmmmm. Propaganda.
                    As for your comments about their rights to honor a fallen brother or sister- my comments are unprintable.

                    “Firefighters are just another interest group”
                    Yes, they are interested in serving your community so when your house catches on fire, they will do everything they can to save it. When your town is burning down, they will do everything they can to save your house while their own home burns to the ground.


                    • Art,

                      I wish I could let this pass like most, but I cannot. This article was a haymaker that I never saw coming. One man's opinion means nothing to me. The opinion of a man with the ability to sway public opinion is a threat.

                      The basis of his article, "stop throwing the HERO tag around" is one I am in full agreement with. But to vilify us with his slant on all we do is uncalled for. For the most part, the responses of those here I know and admire have been civil. To those who resort to threat and name calling, most of them didn't have my respect to begin with.

                      We have been hurt by his remarks and I will stand up to those who would do my friends harm. If Doug would be interested, I would like to carry on a civil conversation (email exchange) with him. Please let me know. I hope you would know I will not embarass our great profession by ranting but carry on a civil debate and perhaps sway some of his skewed opinion.

                      With that, I ask this thread to continue, civily. Most of you have said what I already knew, we don't look at ourselves as heroes. The pain came from the inference that we do.


                      • Follow up on the author

                        I have been trading emails back and forth with this Doug person who wrote the article. Following is an excerpt from his last email:

                        "It was a opinion piece. I didn't expect everyone, or even many people, to agree with me. I had stats sufficient to make my points. Debate was to be expected, particularly when I generalized and all those in the "opposition" see things through the prism of their own, specific world. I understand that."

                        As far as I am concerned, that is his admission that he is nothing more than a media whore who deliberately wrote an article he knew would get a negative reaction and attract huge amounts of free publicity to him.

                        The really sad thing is that he has probably sold more books in the last 24 hours than in the last year.
                        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.


                        • Article is definately inappropriate

                          First off, I think the article was definately written inappropriately. That is obvious by the reactions from this community. Whether volunteer or paid...that makes no difference so lets not argue within ourselves. I would definately encourage everyone to send this guy an emial but keep in mind that we are all professionals here so lets keep it that way in our thoughts. It doesnt help our case any to send harassing emails even though we are obviously outraged (as am I!) Even though we have been degraded and such by a person who knows nothing of our lives, I think I can speak for all of us when I say I would be the first one through his front door should any of his loved ones need help. I hope he realizes what he has done to the people who keep him safe at night!

                          Ben Sears


                          • Thank God I read this before I bought the book!

                            Thankfully, I read the Firehouse commentary before I went out and bought the book written by this moron! What is his problem?? Did he lose a woman to a firefighter (can't blame her, whoever she was), did he not get the firefighting job he wanted (can't blame the fire department, they have to have standards)??? Reading between the lines, this is one angry guy with a bigtime grudge (and a whole lot of the green-eyed monster) residing within his psyche. He definitely needs psychological help so he doesn't make such a jackass of himself again.

                            (BTW, I'm a teacher, and while it's a great profession, I sure don't think that I qualify as a hero>)

                            God bless you all! You're amazing!


                            • There was once a wise person who said:

                              "You cannot like or dislike a quality in another person unless you like or dislike that same quality that is within yourself."

                              It is true I do not agree with Mr Gantenbein's opinion, but I will argue with anyone who disagrees that he does not have the right to have at least have an opinion of one kind or another. The fact that his current one is not on my "Agreement List" does not necessarily make him a bad person, misguided and misinformed perhaps, but not bad. He has an opinion, and was BIG ENOUGH to actually submit it to the public. That is his opinion, and his choice. As I stated earlier, to make his home address a public post was not a very courtious thing to do, and actually in my opinion was quite rude and uncalled for. Add further to that the indication that there have been threats placed against him and his family!! Now that is both very childish of the individuals who have done this (if in fact those reports are true) and in a general way backs up his opinion of us. Threats to an individual based on his/her opinion are completely uncalled for and would be consideration for the placement of harassement charges, which I would fully support.

                              I thought we were better people in the Fire Service than to be carrying on like a bunch of school house bullies.

                              Again, that is just my opinion. Now I am going back to splitting and hauling wood so I can heat my home.
                              If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

                              "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

                              "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

                              Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

                              impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

                              IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.


                              • And the longer this goes on, the more he sells. Personal attacks validate his views. To the people who are responding so poorly to his comments (the threats, the poorly thought out responses on the MSN forum) the objective reader is going to say "You know, this guy may have something here." You don't represent me and I hope people realize that you are a vocal minority representation of the fire service. The most effective way to deal with this piece is to say "OK, the guy doesn't have a clue. He is uninformed. This is how it really is." Then go out with dignity and do our job to the best of our ability every day. That is how we show people what we are all about.

                                He fired a salvo at the brotherhood. How we respond to the salvo is our choice and speaks volumes about us. Do we want to come off as a group of people who react to any criticism with a knee jerk "screw you" response? Attacking the writer on a personal level is counter productive and does nothing for our image. C'mon people. I hope to God we are better than that. The people I know and respect in the fire service certainly are.

                                Some people have said that the article degrades us, and I understand that feeling. Think about it though. How can this man's writings degrade you? I strongly believe that no one can "degrade" you. Only you can do that to yourself by your own actions.
                                Last edited by CJMinick390; 11-03-2003, 05:12 PM.
                                Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
                                Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

                                These statements are mine and mine alone
                                I.A.C.O.J. Building crust and proud of it


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