Firefighters: "Do the Right Thing"
Every new recruit looks forward to their first day of training with eager anticipation. I know that for me, there were hundreds of images flying through my head. Big trucks, flashing lights, sharp axes – this was going to be way too cool for words. All the other recruits in my class were equally pumped-up, and when we sat down in the lecture room for the first time you could practically see the excitement discharging like electricity among the students. Roaring flames and high-speed response, that’s what we wanted to hear about. We weren’t exactly prepared for the first question we got asked by the training chief:
“What is the purpose of a firefighter?”
There are many technically correct answers to that question, not the least of which is “to fight fire”. But that’s not what he was looking for, and we were all intelligent enough to realize that. After a few seconds of silence and a room full of empty stares, the chief went on to give us the answer he had in mind.
“The purpose of a firefighter — their number one job — is to do the right thing.”
At first, we didn’t get it; but then he started to tell us stories. These weren’t war stories. We weren’t hearing about tales of enormous fires or large triage events. We listened to the story of a firefighter in full PPE who helped an elderly lady get her birdcage open because she was unable to do it herself and she was afraid her bird was going to starve. We heard about a guy whose car was stranded by the side of the road in a bad rainstorm, and a passing firefighter on his way back from a call who stopped and gave the guy a lift to and from the nearest gas station and enough petty cash for a few gallons of fuel. We were told, as stereotypical as it is, about cats being rescued from trees.