Maybe this should read “Dear Mayor” Time to post this one again!

Dear citizen,

 

Moore 002Please allow me to introduce myself. I am your firefighter. I’m the one who shows up at the firehouse for my shift, and I’m the one who shows up when the pager goes off. If we passed each other on the street, you most likely wouldn’t recognize me. My face may not be familiar. But rest assured, I am your firefighter. I am a brother; a sister; a mom and a dad; a son and a daughter; and, yes, a grandfather and grandmother.

 

I am writing to you in an effort to clear up some misinformation. You may have heard lately that firefighters make too much money or don’t want to respond when the rooftop siren on the firehouse wails, that they don’t care and have lost their grip on the true meaning of being a firefighter. Rest assured, they haven’t. They still very much do care and do more to stand that post than ever before. We train in the skills of firefighting; emergency medical services; hazardous materials; specialized rescue; and, yes, in weapons of mass destruction. The list is long and can range from the basic to extremely technical. We do not sit around the firehouse and play checkers like you may have read in a children’s book. We stand ready to respond to your emergency no matter what it is. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

We sleep in a firehouse or with a pager next to our bed at home, ready at any moment to respond to someone in need. Our response to those who need us is done so without prejudice. We don’t perform a credit check or make you submit an application. We respond to your needs immediately without regard as to who you are or what status you carry in the community. We take care of the wealthy and the homeless, and we will treat your children, your grandmother, and your home or business as if they were our own. This is not a practiced or trained skill but a way of life for your firefighter. To us, it’s not a job or even a profession; it’s a calling–one that involves the thrill of helping others in their time of need. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

It’s not a new job. We’ve been there for you since Benjamin Franklin decided to create the first volunteer fire department. The position has gone from that of prominence to that which people look down on, to that of hero after the attacks on 9/11 to once again to those who have too much. Let us be clear in this area as well when it comes to having too much. Most of us work two jobs in an attempt to put food on the table or into a college fund. We miss a lot of our kid’s soccer games, recitals, birthday parties, and so many special moments that are gone forever to either work that shift or make that call. We work on Christmas and a long list of other holidays and run out the door when our children are opening their presents from Santa. When you wouldn’t think of giving up one of those special moments, we do. We stand ready for you. Yes, it is a choice we made, that of serving others, but it was a choice made without promise of wealth or personal gains–just that of taking care of others. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

And can we address that of being a hero? You see, those of us who serve or have served as firefighters do not consider the position that of a hero. We will admit the task does require acts and deeds of bravery at times; it comes with the work we love to do. Again, we’re just moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who just want to make a difference in the communities we serve. We have never met a firefighter who said, “I can’t wait to be a hero today.” All they want to do is serve others, take care of people, and have a belief in “family” that is paralleled by few. They are values driven, not money driven, so please do not read this wrong. Firefighters are some of the bravest people we know, but there is a difference between an “act” and a belief in something special. To them it’s not about being a hero; it’s more about being guardians, those which support family. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

We paint, clean, maintain, and mow the grass at our firehouse not as much because it saves our taxpayers money but because it is our home. We realize that a firehouse has stood within a neighborhood as a place of safety for decades, a place where a senior citizen who is lost and can’t find the way home can go and find help, and those helping her will treat her like she was their own grandmother. A place where a child who is scared, lost, or being followed by a bad person can go and find protection. Please understand to a firefighter their firehouse isn’t just another building; it’s their home and a symbol of what is right within a community. It’s a building where we train together, prepare to respond to your call for help together, and for some where we eat, sleep, and spend a third of our lives together. It is where we stand ready for you. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

We realize that each time the economy takes a downward turn, the first thing they say at city hall is, “What can we cut in the fire department?” and we once again will do more with less. We will always try to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar and save money wherever we can, but there is only so much you can do with less. You can line the street with as many fire engines and ladder trucks as you want, keep in mind that fire trucks don’t fight fires, firefighters do, and we need them to be successful at serving you.

 

We’ll change your smoke detector battery free of charge, make sure that there is no carbon monoxide in your home waiting to harm you or your loved ones, and we’ll walk with you through your home, helping you identify areas that need to be addressed for your family’s safety. We stop along that dark roadside and help you change a flat tire because you are family and we would never leave a loved one stranded along the road. We read to children hoping to promote literacy and to help them understand that reading is just not important but can be fun too and those that can read do well in life. We conduct fundraisers to help those in need and give little children fighting cancer a ride on our fire engine because we know that 30 seconds of your life can change another’s forever. And if you’re ever wondering just how important a firefighter is in the life of a child, the next time you’re in your local bookstore, go to the children’s section and count how many firefighters, fire engines, hook and ladder trucks, and ambulances you see in the books there. To a child they are a hero, but more importantly a mentor and role model, again, a person who values family. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

It may seem that I am a bit partial when it comes to firefighters, but please don’t look for an apology. I am that way because I have seen firefighters risk it all for those they do not know and in some cases for those who could care less about them. I have seen the biggest of them kneel down next to and help an 85-year-old grandmother who has fallen for the fifth time this month with such care and compassion that you find yourself choking back tears. I have watched them bring life into this world, save lives, and many times do everything in their power, to the point of exhaustion, to save another’s life, only to not be able to do so, and I have heard them cry. Yes, firefighters have feelings and yes, they cry. You’ll never see it, because they’ll do it when they are alone or in the bunk room sitting on the side of their bed. It’s after they’ve done everything to breathe life back into that baby or to cut someone’s daughter out of their wrecked car or after they have lost a fellow firefighter in the line of duty. It’s not normal to see what a firefighter has to see or do what a firefighter has to do, but they do it. They do it because they want to serve you. They want to stand that post for you and your family, to be there for you all day long and for you long after you go to bed. You see, I am your firefighter.

 

In closing again, firefighters don’t do “it” for the recognition. Yes they are proud of what they do, but don’t try to give them medals or accolades. They’ll just tell you they were doing their job. They have a passion for serving others and are not looking for rewards. Maybe just decent tools, equipment, and protective clothing to do their jobs. The training that keeps them prepared to take care of you and your family and the staffing they need in order to make that happen, and once in a while the secure feeling of knowing that they’ll be able to continue volunteering in your community or working in that firehouse, without the fear of cuts or closings. They won’t ask for laser beams, fancy titles, or for a “room with a view.” To be honest they already have the best view in the house. It’s from the firehouse down the block from your home. The one that allows them the privilege and honor of serving you and your family. You see, I am your firefighter and we will always be there for you!

 

Written by Rick Lasky

…a dad, husband, son, brother, a firefighter.

88 Comments

  • Greg Osborne says:

    I have this hanging on my wall, and with Chief’s permission I sent it out to everyone of my members, including my chief.

  • Brad Boddez says:

    Chief Lasky, once again I read your words and can’t help but be thankful for the job I do. It always lights that spark that sometimes flickers with the stresses of administration or the pressures that are placed on us. I will cherish this piece of literature and will pass it onto not only my members but with our friends in council and senior administration. Always look forward to your work Rick!

    Brad Boddez
    Fire Chief
    Morinville Fire Department
    Morinville, Alberta, Canada

  • Dan K. says:

    Excellent article Chief! You are truly an inspiration & teacher. Your advice is always amazing!

  • Dustin Amundson says:

    Thank you.

  • George Lawson says:

    Thanks Chief,
    This is deck plate stuff, I will pass it along. Keep up the Good work. I have a Bowling shirt just like yours, go Cubs.

    FF/EMT
    USN Retired.

  • Bub Rudersdorf says:

    This letter would be ideal to send to the Mayor of the City that I live in. Fire Dept. first to get the cut and you do known that all they do at night is SLEEP – I asked if that was for real !!!!!!!

  • S. Provencher says:

    Well said brother! You hit the nail on the head, a must read for the citizens we serve.

  • Jim Saylor says:

    WTAE News realy Busted the Pride Of Volunteer Fire Fighters ! Volunteer or Paid we ALL do the same job . ! I so would love the people that run there months set in our shoes and do all the training, answering the calls and fund raiseing . They have no clue . I have held to many family members that there close ones have passed on in a emergency. GOD BLESS OUR EMERGENCY RESPONDERS !

    • Rick Lasky says:

      Thank you Jim! It’s a damn shame how our volunteers are treated! Some of those in the elected positions need to be reminded just how important they are to our mission! Be safe!

  • Greg Reynolds says:

    Chief, well said. This is why I brought you here a couple months ago. Not everyone gets “it”. Cheers to those that do

  • Gary Baar says:

    From one Chief to another. Thanks Chief for Pride and Ownership.

  • A. John Ashburn "Doctor John" "Alfie" says:

    Chief I spent over 30 years in the fire service in Indiana. I heard all the same complaints, during time. Served as a union officer, went through a “blue flu.” We were lucky back then no layoffs, just “leeches” on the taxpayers dollar. We weathered all the flak, without problems. My legacy is that my son followed in my footsteps, he’s a firefighter on the same department and has risen to District Fire Chief. His department (I left it to him when I retired) has had layoffs, called backs and Lord knows what else they have to put up with from the politicians and citizens putting the fire department and outstanding men and women in that fire service. I ask each citizen, “What if you had a fire and nobody came, to put it out”? Thanks for your article. Is there a copy of it to send?
    John Ashburn
    420 Connell Rd. 19C
    Valdosta GA 31602
    (352) 989-2612
    Retired Kokomo , Indiana April 22, 2000

  • Bobby says:

    Can you guys please elaborate on how all of these firefighter positions get paid this much and how so many managerial positions are not exempt from overtime?

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=Firefighter

    • Rick Lasky says:

      Bobby, what I’ve seen is that it’s all over the place. Some get no overtime in the FD but other departments do, some places both get it, etc. For many I think they missed the whole exempt thing in the job posting. That’s where a proactive flexing program works well where in lieu of OT you can flex time off during a week. Hope that helped a bit.

  • Kevin says:

    Nice piece. You didn’t address the compensation topic at the beginning of your writing.

  • Fred K says:

    My son once asked me why we do this, yes we are a father and son team that volunteered together. He is now a career firefighter. While I may have felt as you wrote I have never been able to verbalize it as you have. You have said everything we all feel. Well done and thank you.

  • Dave Dobbs says:

    Well done, Brother. This is great stuff.

  • Gary Goodwin says:

    with your approval I would like to post this on my volunteer fire dept’s. website. our county association is currently attempting to establish a county fire fee to aid the 10 fire depts. maybe this can open some eyes in the community and local government .

  • Bruce Hagerman says:

    Very well said Chief. As the son & grandson of volunteer firefighters and as a retired career and former volunteer and the father of a career Lt. I appreciate you taking the time to write this.

  • Ruthe says:

    This made me cry! My heart felt thanks goes out to all of you!! I’ve raised a volunteer firefighter who is now 10 years into it and has been made a Lt. To say I am proud is an under statement. Thank you! Thank you to every last one of you! God bless you!!

  • Steve Greer says:

    Honesty and truth shall set you free. Your words speak volumes of honesty and truth about the profession we have chosen. The firehouse life is not for everyone, and most have no clue to the inner workings of the brotherhood. However, this certainly goes a long in explaining it to the lay public and the political officials. Thanks for sharing Chief.

  • Dave McGlynn says:

    Chief, as always… great stuff. You are one of my biggest insirations and impacts. I have a whole new outlook of my job and what’s important. Thanks!

  • Chris leff says:

    Chief, once again I am inspired and the joy of my job has been renewed. As a young lieutenant, I love seein fb and hearing encouragement. Thank you for that.

    Lt. Chris Legg
    Clendenin VFD
    Clendenin, WV

  • Ron Ayotte says:

    Chief Lasky… a copy of this should be sent to every mayor,county administrator, city councilor, alderman and selectman in the country!

    A copy should also be sent to every Fire Chief who puts their “political ambitions” over the good and welfare of their personnel and Fire Department.

  • Robert MacPherson says:

    Very well written, I have been a firefighter in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada for almost 30 years now and this pretty much explains the life of a firefighter, we see and do what many would find it hard to believe unless you have been there, I could relate to every word from tears to leaving home to respond to a call for help while wife and children are opening their Christmas gifts. What I didn’t realize when I joined as a volunteer firefighter 30 years ago was how it would affect my family and the sacrifices they would have to make when without a moments notice the alarm sounds and all plans are off, and now they are left worrying and wondering whether I was going to return home safe, so with that said I would like to thank my supportive family for all they do. To all my brother and sister firefighters, God Bless and Stay Safe.

    • Rick Lasky says:

      Thank you Robert and thank you for your dedication brother! And please let your family know that is a bunch of us that truly do appreciate their sacrifice. Give them A hug for me!

  • Susan Danforth says:

    My dad,was,a,firefighter in Watertown and as a firefighter I know how he felt about his town; co workers and job. Always going beyond the call of duty; being there for others at all times! Men.of courage and strength. Compassionate and love for there community

    Thank you for your words..
    God Bless You All

  • Doug says:

    AMEN Brother !
    Nothing else needs to be said in my opinion.
    Thank you for stating it so well Rick ! !

  • Bruce Jordan says:

    Great article, Chief! Well written and covers all the bases. I am a new chief and I try every day to find new ways to show our citizens know that our department is there for them 24 / 7.

  • I like that you are straight forward and to the point and bring pride back the job I love. I enjoyed you in Trussville AL about this time last year and can hardly wait to hear you in Birmingham AL very soon.
    Take Care and Thank you

  • Gurjit Hundal says:

    Hello Rick,

    After reading your article I truly realized the commitment and dedication firefighters have to sacrifice for the good of their community. The words you have mentioned are some of the reasons why I want to be…. no wait I will be a firefighter. When I read your article I could not stop but envision the life of a fire fighter. Your words and wisdom will carry with me for the rest of my life. I will read this everyday because your words are an inspiration to me. Your words are highly regarded because you are honest and believe in the community that the firefighter family does care about the citizens. I am starting the process and I know it will be a tough/long adventure but to know that one day I hope to make a difference like you have gives me more motivation to succeed.

    I thank you for your words of honesty, humility, and professionalism.

    Respectfully,

    Gurjit Hundal

    • Rick Lasky says:

      Thank you Gurjit! You’ve already got the passion going and the drive to make it happen. Be patient with the process, work hard at it, show them that they’ll love knowing they hired you and it’ll happen buddy!

      And I can’t wait to hear where you land! Please keep me posted and tell me all about it when it happens.

      Be safe!

    • Gurjit Hundal says:

      Hello Rick,

      It has been just under a year since i last wrote to you. As mentioned previously, I had been starting to apply to departments and your right, I needed to be patient, trust the process and work hard. Thank fully the hard work has paid off. I got accepted as a Volunteer Firefighter with Point Roberts Fire Department (WCFD 5) in Washington. I am a Canadian and they have allowed me to become a volunteer. I am super excited and can’t wait to start, learn, work hard and grow as an individual. I will be applying to departments in the US as well as Canada. It’s a great start and I needed to get more hands on experience and understand the role of a firefighter and becoming a volunteer as allowed me to do so.

      Talk Soon,

      Respectfully,

      Gurjit Hundal

  • Angelo Luongo says:

    Thanks Chief your words are spot on. I have been out of the fire service for 15 years and there is not a day that goes by without me missing being a Firefighter. Your words ring true for me and for many who will read them. GOD BLESS YOU AND THOSE THAT DON THE GEAR TO GET THE JOB DONE!

  • David Blythe says:

    Great words Chief. I must say that we are fortunate here, we have a really supportive community and our city/county supports us for the most part also. I’ve volunteered for 35 years come this Sept., with the last 15 as chief. Our station is used for birthday parties to Sr. citizen meetings to Little League baseball sign ups. I think this is one reason the community supports us so much. My son is now 4th generation firefighter.

  • Ross Bartoe says:

    Rick,
    Thank you for putting into words that so many of us know and live yet do not say. I retired after 27 years in the fire service. I am 3rd generation firefighter. I was paid for my career but others in my family were “vollies”. I am proud of what I did over the years.. Saved a few lives, lost to damn many. Now health problems from my career yet would not wish or change any of it because of the pride I have for what we did. You put to words ao much of what we would want to say. Keep going and I want to send this to all my friends, both in the fire service and those who are not. Maybe they will see your passion in what you do.
    Thanks again for a great answer as to what a “firefighter is.

    • Rick Lasky says:

      Thank you Ross and a huge thank you to your entire family, those who have and continue to serve and those loved ones that make it all possible for that to happen, the first family!

      Take care of yourself my friend and be safe brother!

  • Don Jr. says:

    Written extremely well! I am a 4-year volunteer firefighter following in my dad’s footsteps and couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote! Pager is on my headboard as I write this!

    Don Jr.
    Sumpter Fire Dept. / MI

  • Darcy Abell says:

    Thanks for expressing this so well, this sums up why I volunteer as a firefighter. I hope this helps communities everywhere understand better what is inside the hearts and minds of firefighters and why we do what we do.

  • Victor Zamaloff FF/EMT/Fire Investigator Retired says:

    Well stated Brother
    Thank You!

  • Tim Morin says:

    Thank you Rick. Been 31 years of service and feeling like maybe it’s finally time to retire. Your words just refilled my heart and reminded me once again why I wanted to do this in the first place. May have a few years left after all. God bless!!

  • I had the honor of knowing some fire fighters in this life time and I am very thankful for this . I can honestly say I could not do the job they do . But I can say there is not enough thanks to them .

  • Jim Phelan says:

    Thanks Again for all you do for the Fire service Chief. With your permission, I will share this with all our personnel and post a copy in each of our Fire Stations
    Jim Phelan
    Fire Chief
    Parkland County
    Alberta, Canada

  • Sam Arcuri says:

    I am a retired Lt/Paramedic ( 1994) from Utica,NY…..This is the best article I have ever read!!!! Keep up the good work and be safe brother.

  • Nicholas Runyan says:

    Rick this is an amazingly written letter. Would love to be able to print this off and share it at my station! Stay safe out there as will I!

  • Charlie B. Parker Sr. says:

    Rick that was awesome and all true.
    We lost a young fire man in our family fresh out of high school. I have noting but the highest respect for fireman. Not a day goes by that we miss him.
    Fire fighter and EMS are awesome people that are taken for granite.

  • Roy Lowman says:

    Chief,
    Thanks for posting this. I am going to save this and print it out. Then I am going to email it to all of the Chiefs in our Parish. Pass it out to my members. And finally post it around our Fire District. Thanks again for sharing this.

    Roy Lowman
    Fire Chief
    Allen Parish Fire District 5
    Oberlin, LA
    FF/EMT
    Retired US Army
    74D Chemical Specialist NCO

  • Julia K. says:

    This was a great article! Thank you for all you guys do. I say a prayer for you guys everyday! May God keep you and your families safe. God Bless!! 🙂

  • Gray says:

    good read

  • Ponciano cinco says:

    Thank you Mr. Lasky for the column. As a 12 year firefighter it’s things like this that gives you back that spark or reason for the job. I really do hope that society sees this job as a calling or love and not a cause for fame. Many prayers and blessings to you sir.

    Thank you

  • God has bless me15 time we cheated death godknows I love them I praise god for them

  • Deanna L Soriez says:

    I am a daughter of a deceased fire fighter and the sister and god-motherof two fire fighters. I was and am proud of the firemen in my family! All fire fighters put their lives on the line to save someone’s life, property or to protect them from danger. They also have families. May God’s love, peace, and blessings surround all fire fighter’s and their families.

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