One of the greatest things about the fire service is the friendship and “family” that develops out of the time spent with people, who in all other professions would simply be ‘co-workers’. I’ve been working one full 24 hour day, every week, for almost two and a half years at the Cordelia Fire Protection District. I love it, and I love the people I work with. It would be untrue to say that I consider the entire department “family” or even “friends”.  Cordelia FPD is a volunteer department with a reasonably high turnover. Often I barely get a chance to meet some of my fellow firefighters. Don’t get me wrong; guys are not getting fired, they’re getting hired!  We lose great firefighters all the time to full-time, paid departments, and because we all work different days of the week, we often don’t see or meet one another until a large event such as a fundraiser or large wildland fire.  As a member of “Monday Crew” I rarely see the Wed-Sat crews.

Bringing it back to my point, my regular crew and I have been together for some time now and when you spend this much time with people, you get to know them really well. We are close and we have each others backs, on duty or off.  In a month, we’ll all be going to our Company Officer’s wedding, and we’ve been talking about a Vegas trip, etc., etc… We’re brothers in a fraternal sense of the word.

There is a very real kinship that develops between a crew. It’s not perfect either. We all have our quirks, but you live with those things. It’s the combination of good, bad, (and a whole lot of ugly!) that make a person who they are… and when you can appreciate that total package and love that person for all they are, you’ve got a brother (or sister).

When this happens with a crew it’s a beautiful thing. A cohesion builds, molds, and adapts to become a smoother and more efficient operating machine. Firefighters who know each others strengths and weaknesses, and who perform faster and more effectively because they don’t have to speak as many words to because they know what each other is thinking, or check to see that other tasks are being done correctly (because they’ve trained on it before), can be more effective in their own jobs. When this point is reached, you’re on solid ground… and that’s when things get fun.

This camaraderie in the fire service extends from life in the firehouse to daily training to EMS and emergency calls with your crew, but it goes further than that. When I was first getting started, I wasn’t so conscious of the fire and EMS personnel around me. Now, I can’t look anywhere without seeing them.  It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly it seems like everybody else is driving the same vehicle as you.

I drive down the street and it seems every car I see has either a firefighter license plate or a sticker in the back of their windshield with a Maltese cross for fire, EMS or a related service. Not only does it make me more aware and concerned about my own driving for the sake of my colleagues around me, but I also feel safer. I guess just knowing they’re there allows me some reassurance as I watch other drivers texting.

Ultimately, the take-away here is that there is a lot more to the fire service than merely fighting fires and operating fire engines.  The real experience of being a firefighter is the brotherhood, the comradeship and the family that you earn through the blood, the smoke and the soot.  This is the real reward.

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