There are a lot of traditions that go with being a firefighter. Those traditions usually create a lot of questions. Here are some of the most common questions we hear.
Do you have a fire dog?
The Dalmatian has been a symbol of the firehouse for a long time. The dogs that were used to help control the horses are rarely seen in fire stations today. There may be a few around but most fire departments don’t want to deal with the liability and expense of a dog.
Even though most firefighters would welcome a dog the odds of seeing one are getting slimmer every day.
Is it hard to work 24 hours with no sleep?
It is very hard to work 24 hours with no sleep, we have all done it but usually we get at least a few hours of sleep during a shift night. We sleep in a lot of different kinds of rooms, some are one big room with beds, others have divider walls, and newer stations have more private individual sleep areas.
Female firefighters sleep in the same area. We all wear shorts or sweatpants to sleep.
Even when there are dividers snoring is a problem.
Do you eat together?
Sometimes we eat together and sometimes we don’t. It can be difficult to please 8 or 10 people with a menu and for that reason some firefighters decide to bring meals of their own. There is no way to lose weight if you eat the normal firehouse meals so anyone that is serious about losing weight will bring their own food.
Firehouse cooks are usually very good, but they aren’t there just to cook. Most cooks participate in all of the daily activities, go on all the calls, and volunteer for the thankless job of cooking.
We all put in money to pay for our meals, food or meal money is not provided by the department.
Who gets to drive?
Driving is a very important job. Who drives is decided a lot of different ways. Some departments have more senior firefighters drive, and some have a specific rank for drivers. I think the most qualified person should be the driver, the most senior is not necessarily the most competent driver.
Is it scary being a firefighter?
Being a firefighter is not really scary. We train a lot and are very prepared for what we are expected to do. Serious incidents can be very exciting and challenging but we rarely get scared, if we allowed ourselves to be scared we couldn’t do what we do.
Do you slide down a pole?
Fire poles are fading away just like the Dalmatian. Fire poles were common in two story fire stations so firefighters could slide down from their sleeping quarters. Fire stations today are built on one level, or have the sleeping quarters on the ground floor.
Do you make a lot of money?
According to some studies the average firefighter in the US makes just over $45,000. I think that number might be a little low, or maybe it includes part time firefighters. No matter what the study says firefighters usually make the same amount of money as the average blue collar worker.
Fire Chief and administrators make more money, comparable to most manager positions.
When we retire we get a pension but we don’t get social security, and we usually pay the entire premium for our health insurance.