I am tired of seeing the "self-anointed accolades". We are giving people joining the fire service a lofty target to hit.

We are giving people in our communities a reason to resent us when WE refer to the honorable and courageous things that we do. In other words, they don't like US patting ourselves on the back.

People joining want to rise to hero status; some faster than others.

I read the Sunday paper and it sickened me when I came across this AP story from the New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Caleb+Lacey

Caleb Lacey, 19, a Long Island volunteer firefighter doused an apartment staircase with gasoline and set the building ablaze-killing four-in a "twisted attempt to become a hero", prosecutors charged Saturday.

This has given the term "hero" and "volunteer firefighter" connotations that any right thinking person would not want to be associated with.

Stop selling the idea that we are "heroes" and what we do is "heroic".

We do what we do to HELP others. Period.

Anyone who believes that they will make a heroic effort someday; GET OUT NOW.

There are other "Caleb Laceys" in our fire service just waiting for their chance.

You should know them. You voted them onto your fire departments.

And it has given the news media just another reason to splash FIREFIGHTER CHARGED WITH...as their headline and given the evening news their lead in for the top story of the day.

God; please make it stop.


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I understand what you say.
Many of us have been the recipients of a very emotional hug from someone very grateful for our quick actions to come to their aid. There is no way to adequately describe the feeling that we get from it. It ranges from embarrassment to humility to exhilaration for contributing to a positive outcome. And the victim might very well call you their "angel" or "hero". But that is a very private and very spontaneous emotional reaction.
But, we don't go back to the station or go home or call the newspaper and say "well, today I was a hero".
Funny thing about the news media; they will run stories of our courageous efforts and in a New York minute will throw up a mugshot of a firefighter charged with a crime. Call it fickle.
They aren't "on our side". They are there to tell the story; as despicable and disgusting as that may be.
That's why when I was chief, I kept a watchful eye on the media at the scene. I made the "media area" very small and very much away from where we were operating. All information went through the PIO, who also happened to be ME.
This latest fire service transgression must have presented a pretty interesting psyche test. Oh wait; that would require some type of screening.
Excellent points, Devon.
Good discussion.
I agree. we are not special or should feel special. I am just another joe doing a difficult job.I joined the service to help people in their time of need. Granted I haven't been in long but I enjoy what I do.
I don't know about the rest of you but I joined the fire service as a volunteer to help people who were having problems,not to be called a Hero. I 've in my time brought life into this world and sadly have watched it leave also. Some of the firefighter today think that all it is to being a member of a fire department is wearing a shirt or hat with the departments name printed on it, Like the Chief said there are other Lacey's in the fire service and it is our job as older members to keep a close eye out and stop these people from giving our department and job titles a bad name. Firefighting is like riding a motorcycle, the days you don't treat it with respect is the day that you better damn well not do it... We aren't Heros, we're just doing a job that we were trained to do... Now I'll step off the box and let somebody else talk awhile....
While I know we can't prevent the newsies from committing mass character assasination via headline when one of our number take leave of their senses and oath and set fire(s), we can take a moment to look around us and make sure that we don't have such glory seekers in our midst. It's as you say, Art, if it is for heroism that you joined the service, get out. Unfortunately such publicity mongers will only rarely exit under their own power. They always seem to go out in a flash of news photographers' cameras and behind the smile of the news anchor. We know the type though, don't we? We've had conversations about them in the firehouse. Why don't we act when we observe this behavior? Why are we waiting for them to take their leave humbly? We know that's not going to happen.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as: A person admired for his achievements and noble qualities, one that shows great courage.

While I agree that not all firefighters are "HEROES", especially the idiots that do things to disgrace our great profession. I would rather citizens see us as hero's rather then the gangbanger rappers, sports "icons", actors, politicians, etc. You can not sit there and tell me that there are not people in our profession that Webster’s definition does not describe. Several people come to my mind automatically - Ret. Chief Alan Brunacini, Phoenix Fire Department; Chief Rick Lasky, Lewisville Fire Department; Chief Billy Goldfeder, Loveland-Symmes Fire Department. These folks are selfless, loyal, have integrity, respected, etc. There are too many other folks; Volunteer, Career, Etc; that are heroes to the people they work with and their communities that don't get to be noticed on the national stage. They do the job with honor and integrity every day. They deserve the right to be called heroes.

As you put it “Anyone who believes that they will make a heroic effort someday; GET OUT NOW.”

We make a heroic effort everyday. Every time you teach a child not to play with matches, to stop drop and roll, to call 911. You are making a heroic effort. Yes you don’t always see a save after stuff like that. But just knowing that because you taught that child to call 911 he/she could have saved their loved ones life, that because you taught that child not to play with matches they didn’t burn their parents house to the ground - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT. To stand up in front of your city or county council and fight for residential sprinklers laws - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT. To stand up in front of a group of citizens and teach CPR - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT. To respond to a scene to cut someone out of a car that is hanging on to life by minutes because they got hit by a stupid drunk - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT. To be on your knees performing CPR on someone while their family is screaming over your shoulder to save them - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT. A heroic effort is not always dangling of a building or over a rock ledge to save someone, or barely making out after a flashover. A heroic effort is all the small things you do in your career to make life better for the citizens you swore to protect. Just by walking to a fire station and volunteering or applying for a job - That sir is a HEROIC EFFORT.

It sounds to me sir that you need to look back at why you got involved in the fire service. Anyone that feels that firefighters are not heroes, get out of the fire service and go work at Wal-Mart!

And most importantly, never forget the firefighters that passed away on 9/11/01.

FADO Brian Wood
Fallston VFAC
Harford County, Maryland
Proudly serving since Feb 1995
Every firefighter became a "hero" on teh days following 9-11. At least that is what the press and most of the general public started calling us, and it became contagious. Why ? Because some very brave firefighters (and cops, and civilians) did heroic acts that day. The firefighters are remembered as heros more than the others because we lost so many that day. Yes they were doing their job also, but many went way beyond that and risked their lives for others and in too many cases loss their lives as a result. There were many heros on 9-11 firefighters, cops, civilians, airline personnel, etc..

Most of the comments seem to support we are not heros and that we are simply doing a job (paid or unpaid) to help people. While this isn't the definition of a hero and shouldn't be, DON'T cut yourselves short. Each and everyone of us that chose to do what we do are special, just look around and see how many other folks act unselfishly to help total strangers in dire situations. cops, and others for sure but lets face it, it isn't the norm. If it was we wouldn't need to be doing it everytime you turn around.

To turn this hero worship around it has to start with us, but never lose sight that what you do is special and yes on occasion, heroic.

I don't know what you call people who will either choose a profession or volunteer their free time that places themselves in danger to help strangers. To answer a call for help anytime day or night. To go where others won't. To miss out on some of the nicer things in life to train for something we hope never comes and to do this all with compassion for our fellow human beings. What I do know is that one of the words for this is "firefighter"

This lacey character wasn't even a full firefighter from what I read , just a recruit. But even if he was, lets face it there are bad folks out there ,some will join fire departments , some will be cops, some judges, some congressmen etc... There is nothing we can do about this fact. And if you think you can control what the press says about us you are wrong. This wasn't the first case of a firefighter doing bad things and sadly it won't be the last .

All we can do is the best job we can, go home at the end of our shift, honor those that have gone before us and be proud to wear the uniform. So the next time someone calls you a hero politely say : no, I'm just a firefighter.
I have to admit that in the short time I have been in the fire service I have definitely held my head higher then I had before. I went to a funeral a short time after finishing my training,15 minutes away in Brantford Ontario. It was for Brian Heep, the best man at my parents wedding and because he was a close family friend I decided to wear my uniform. As the service started I lead parent into the chapel and looked for a place to sit. Brian was very involved in local charity work and as were many of the guests, even the Mayor spoke at the funeral. In the chapel I spotted a group of empty seats next to Walter Gretzky, the father of NHL Legend Wayne Gretzky. Walter is a legend in the charity world and his tireless efforts have have end him the Order of Canada the Countries highest civilian honour. As I talk to Walter he said to me me "I couldn't do what you guys do." And I have to say that I was totally unprepared for that comment. I was just a probationary Volunteer who had just been to his first VSA and was about a month from my first truly grim scene, but a true hero in my eye was patting me on the back for thing I had not accomplished. He was patting me on the back for what the pubic expects out of firefighters. I wish I had thought about that and had told Walter that I don't think I could be so dedicated to community and charity as he has been. I still hold my head high, I still love that it makes my daughters proud. But it's not a hero status and it's comes with expectation of conduct.
Art, What a terrible situation for a volunteer firefighter to have someone provide such negative associations with being one... and all the hero issues... the media is indeed a group of opportunists. What ever sells a newspaper or gets someone to watch a specific tv station.

No one firefighter is the sole hero. We are hero's, but as a team, working together to resolve what ever it was that had to be dealt with. We are allowed to be heros. We just aren't allowed in our culture as firefighters to be anything but humble about it when we are in public or at the fire station. In fact, isn't it pretty standard that when you get your mug in the paper that you owe ice cream? We have ways of dealing with this in house.

Let the public and media have at it with the hero stuff. It's a love hate thing. If we totally blow off the positive media spin that we get out of the good stuff, then we are blowing the public relations opportunities that can be maximized by your departments PIO.

Meanwhile, with tougher budget dollars and firefighters not wanting any kind of limelight, the local law enforcement folks will be quick to take up the slack and to let folks know that they are the true hero's. I don't know about your districts, but law enforcement is fat with funding compared to the fire service.

Be careful what you wish for here. It's a double edged sword that needs to be controlled but not blown off. And for the Caleb Lacey's out there, we need to open our eyes and be a hell of a lot more discriminative about who we hire.


PS: Keep in mind that this kid, Caleb Lacey, was only 19 years old and obviously had some significant issues...

Caleb Lacey of Lawrence, N.Y., is sits in the back seat of a Nassau County Police vehicle in Mineola, N.Y., Saturday, March 21, 2009. Lacey, 19, will be arraigned on charges of arson and four counts of second-degree murder in connection with a fire that ripped through a crowded Long Island apartment house In February, killing an immigrant mother from El Salvador and three of her children. Lacey was a volunteer member of the Lawrence/Cedarhurst Fire Department at the time of the fire. (AP Photo/Mike Descalso)
Capt Mike, your so right. Thanks for your prospective and insight.
Amen. I joined the service when i turned 16, I started in the explorer program and am now a volunteer and am looking to go full time. My father told me when i was young, "son, if you don't enjoy our work and your just in it for the money, you need to persue what you enjoy!" and he was right! All my life I have enjoyed helping people because when they smile at you or thank you for what you do to help, thats the best feeling in the world! And thats the feeling I get when I run calls and help people, just knowing I helped somebody in need of emergency help and in some cases, somebody escapes death or injury, because no matter what, when, or where the call is, you should treat the situation as if it was ur loved one, friend, neighbor, etc. In doing this, the people you help will go out and help somebody, and maybe one day we can all agree on something! The golden rule is "treat others as you would want to be treated!"
It does my heart good to see this reaction , I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way. I certainly believe that anyone that truely feels themselves to be in a heroic occupation should move on because they have lost sight of why we do what we do. Most likely they are a danger to themselves and the brothers around them, and are most likely to be part of the problem rather than the solution.
Again maybe its just me but I find this site ,especially the videos to contain far too many tributes to the general firefighters. I definatly have no problem with tributes to the fallen firefighters but find alot of the generalized tributes to be just the type of HERO WORSHIP, we can do without and would love to see a reduction in these pictorials. Prehaps I'm wrong but I'd love to hear what others think of this on our nation.
To sum up my last reply, your 100% correct!!! Your not the only one that would to love to see that!

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