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Firefighting and What It Means to Put Family First

Ethan Vizitei

Firefighting is often touted as rewarding, challenging, demanding, and exciting.

These descriptors are all factual, but there’s one thing that’s often not on the list that is equally true about any career in emergency response: it’s addictive. Maybe not in the same way that some chemicals are habit-forming, but those feelings of excitement and camaraderie you get during a good call can be a real “high” that you want to experience over and over again.

My first child was born this last week, a beautiful little girl, and in the wake of her birth I think it’s appropriate for me to take a moment and talk about some of the damage that you can do to yourself and your family if you don’t balance your firefighting habit with your family life. Much like the military, the fire service is littered with broken marriages.

It’s completely understandable when you think about it. Career departments usually use 24 hour shifts so you aren’t home every night, and somebody has to staff the trucks on weekends and holidays. Volunteer departments have guys working full time jobs and then going out to run calls. In fact, often times firefighters end up taking on extra shifts or spending weekends hanging around the station just hoping to get a few more calls in. Then you have to talk about all the optional training and certifications: wildfires, haz-mat, rope rescue, paramedic, vehicle extrication, water rescue…I could go on all day. Those courses are usually taught on weekends, and you need them if you want to be useful on those rare and exciting calls.

And what about moving up the ladder? You’ll need your fire instructor certifications, fire officer certifications, fire investigator certifications. And of course you want to be helping train the new guys who are coming on, so you’ll volunteer some time to help at recruit school and teach a few classes on the certifications you already have.  Then, naturally, you need to be sure you’re getting all your CEU’s to keep your certifications current, and while you’re at it, why not get a part time job working a few shifts on the ambulance during the weekends?

Is it any surprise that raising a family in the midst of all this can be tough?  

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