Whether as a volunteer or career fire fighter, the path you have chosen is both challenging and rewarding.
Working as a fire fighter will require hard physical labour and may expose you to a high level of mental and emotional stress, and even mortal danger.
Doing the job well requires a highly developed sense of personal dedication, a genuine desire to help people, and the ability to master a variety of skills and apply them when needed. While being a fire fighter is very demanding, for those who are psychologically and physically up to the task, it can be the most rewarding job in the world!
FIRE SERVICES HISTORY
It is important to be aware of the past in order to appreciate the fire services as it exists today and what it may become in the future. In addition, if you want to be a positive contributor to today’s fire service and perhaps help to shape its future, you will need to appreciate the culture of the profession.
Whenever there is an emergency of any kind, the fire department is often the first emergency response organization called to the scene.
Fire departments respond to a variety of emergencies, not just fires.
Regardless of the composition of the department or an individual fire company, fire fighters train together, work together, and live together in the fire stations. This interaction promotes closeness between members and they come to rely on each other. In short they become a team, a team in which everyone looks out for everyone else.
For thousands of years, people have been using fire to warm themselves, cool their food, and soften metals so they could be hammered or cast into new and useful shapes. However, they have also known that a fire has the potential to injure and kill them and their livestock as well as to destroy their crops and homes. Whenever buildings were clustered together, a fire starting in one building could and often did spread to the building next to it and the ones beyond that until most or all of the adjacent buildings were destroyed.
Because of this potential for destruction, villages, towns and cities began to require their citizens to keep a ladder long enough to reach the roof and containers of water on hand with which to extinguish any uncontrolled fire. These measures continue to be required of building occupants for centuries. In fact these measures were required of homeowners as late as the early twentieth century.
As the peoples evolved from nomadic tribes of shepherds or hunter/gatherers into more stable agrarian societies, they built more substantial structures in which to live and to protect their livestock. Even though most of the buildings were constructed with walls of rock or other materials that wouldn’t burn, most of the roofs were covered with thatched straw. Many of these buildings also had fireplaces for heating and cooking. Sparks from the fireplace chimneys would sometimes land on the dry thatch and ignite it.
This happened so often that in Germany fires starting in thatched roofs came to be called “der rote Hahn” or “the Red Hen”.
Unfortunately, the means of extinguishing uncontrolled fires had not evolved beyond the bucket brigade in which people stood side by side in a line from a well or other water source to the burning building and passed buckets of water from one person to the next. The last person in line would throw the water onto the fire. This crude method would sometimes work; more other than not, however the roof would burn off and the fire would consume most or all of what was inside the building.
When the Pilgrims and others immigrated to North America starting in the seventeen century, they brought with them the construction and fire fighting methods of the countries they left behind. Unfortunately, the results were also similar. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution beginning in the last quarter of the eighteen century that fire fighting tools, equipment, and methods began to change in North America.
The Industrial Revolution affected many aspects of society, but especially the textile and steel industries. Textile mills sprang up in North America, particularly in the New England states. These mills produced cotton and linen cloth along with tremendous quantities of highly flammable lint and other debris that accumulated on and under the oiled wooden floors of these massive mill buildings.
Because most of these building were lighted by oil lamps and eventually gas lights, sources of ignition were numerous.
Even though mill buildings were usually constructed of brick and heavy timber, fires in these occupancies were frequent and sometimes catastrophic. However, the revolution in the iron and steel industries began to produce fire fighting tools and equipment especially pumping apparatus that would make fighting fires in the textile mills and similar occupancies feasible. These early pumpers and ladder trucks evolved into the modern fire apparatus that we see today.
Typical fire marks on old homes
This and other early insurance companies supported the local fire companies. The various companies adopted distinctive symbols known as fire marks and posted one on each property they protected.
Many of the early fraternal groups were made up of military veterans and the organizations adopted to rank structure, such as privates, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains and majors with which their members were most familiar. Some fire departments today still use those ranks, but the majority of fire departments now use different designations except for the ranks of lieutenants and captains.
Then, as today, the majority of fire fighters were volunteers.
The members of these organizations were very proud of their work and may became quite competitive- so much so that members of different groups arriving at the scene of a fire at the same time would sometimes fight each other for the right to fight the fire. As competitive and sometimes combative as these groups were, they eventually evolved into the volunteer and career fire departments that protect our cities and towns today.
FIRE SERVICE CULTURE
As the fire departments evolved from the early centuries, it has been known to follow the culture of the then fire fighters. These cultural characteristic included the following:
Integrity- While the word integrity can be defined in different ways depending upon the context, in the fire service it means “obedience to the unenforceable”. In other words it means doing the right thing simply because it’s right – not because someone has the power to force you to do it.
Moral Character- More than anything else, what moral character means in this context is truthfulness and HONESTY?
Work Ethic- Having a good work ethic is also critical to your success as a fire fighter. It means doing what needs to be done without being told.
Pride- Like the other characteristics just discussed, pride in yourself and your work are absolutely critical to your success as a fire fighter.
Courage- Fires and other emergencies can be very frightening situations – so much so that most average citizens may be frightened into inaction. Fire fighters do not have that luxury.
Fire fighters are sworn to do whatever they can to save the lives of those who are in jeopardy and to protect their property were possible.
FIRE SERVICES MISSION
The mission of the fire service is to save lives and protect property, and this is also the mission of every fire department and fire fighter. Obviously, this means saving people who’s lives are threatened by a fire or other emergency, but it also includes protecting the lives of the fire fighters involved in the incident.
One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways that fire departments can save live and protect property is by preventing fires from staring in the first place. Most fire departments use the following two programs to prevent fires:
Fire Prevention and code enforcement
Despite the best effort to prevent fires, they continue to occur. Many are caused by mechanical or electrical malfunctions, natural disasters, human carelessness, or criminal activity including acts of terrorism. The following will always be the highest priorities:
THERE IS A SAYING THAT STATE IT IS ONLY DUM PEOPLE THAT DON’T HAVE A CAREER PATH THAT BECOME A FIRE FIGHTER AND THIS IS ONE STATEMENT THAT IS WRONG A FIRE FIGHTER IS A SPECIAL BORN PERSON THAT WILL ENTER WERE YOU ARE AFRAID OF TO ENTER. WE AS FIRE FIGHTER HAVE A PROFESSIONAL JOB AND NEED TO GO THROUGH EXTREME TRAINING WE AS FIRE FIGHTERS IN SOUTH AFRICA ARE A UNIQUE FIRE FIGHTER, HOW WOULD THE AMERICAN FIRE FIGHTERS SAY WE DO NOT KNOW HOW YOU GUYS CAN BE A ALL IN ONE FIRE FIGHTER BECAUSE IN AMERICA AND ALL OVER THE WORLD EACH FIRE FIGHTER HAVE HIS/HER SPECIFIC TASK TO DO IN SOUTH AFRICA WE ARE TRAINED IN FIRE FIGHTING THAT IS A FULL TIME 16 WEEK COURSE AND THAT DOES NOT STOP THERE WE STILL NEED TO WRITE YEARLY EXAMS AND STUDY THRU UNIVERSITY FOR YOUR B-TECH DEGREE IN FIRE TECHNOLOGY, THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING THEN WE NEED TO LEARN MEDICAL (PARAMEDIC) AND THIS START WITH THE FOLLOWING, FIRST AID LEVEL 1 TO 3 , BASIC AMBULANCE ASSISTANT (BASIC LIFE SUPPORT MEDIC 4 WEEKS), AMBULANCE EMERGENCY ASSISTANT (INTERMEDIATE LIFE SUPPORT 4 MONTHS), CRITICAL CARE ASSISTANT (11 MONTHS) / NATIONAL DIPLOMA MEDICAL / B-TECH MEDICAL (4 – 5 YEARS) (ADVANCE LIFE SUPPORT PARAMEDIC) A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH A MEDICAL QUALIFICATION WILL TELL YOU THAT THEY ARE A PARAMEDIC IN FACT THAT IS UNTRUE YOU NEED TO BE ON A ADVANCE LEVEL TO BE CALLED A PARAMEDIC AND THIS IS THE MEDICAL SIDE, WE ALSO TRAINED AS A FIRE FIGHTER IN HAZARDOUS MATERIAL FROM AWARENESS LEVEL TO OPERATION LEVEL TO TECHNICIAN LEVEL AND THAT IS FOR THE HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENT THEN ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING SIDES OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT IS THE RESCUE AREA THAT START AT HIGH ANGLE 1 (ROPE RESCUE) / VEHICLE RESCUE / FIRE SEARCH & RESCUE / HIGH ANGLE 2 (SPECIALIZED ROPE RESCUE) / WILDERNESS SEARCH & RESCUE / AQUATIC RESCUE(WATER & SMALL BOAT / SKIPPER) / AVIATION RESCUE / INDUSTRIAL & AGRICULTURAL / CONFINED SPACE RESCUE / TRENCH RESCUE / STRUCTURAL COLLAPSE RESCUE / HAZARDOUS MATERIAL RESCUE / K9 SEARCH & RESCUE / CAVE RESCUE ETC:
I BELIEVE THIS JUSTIFIED THE SAYING THAT THE FIRE FIGHTER IS A PROFESSION THAT STAND OUT ABOVE ALL OTHER PROFESSIONS