Since 1678, firefighters have been serving the American people by saving as many lives and properties as humanly possible. Firefighting is one of the noblest service professions today, one that average Joes like you and I rely on during emergencies.
Most people have a misconception about this profession as a romantic one, like chocolates, flowers, and wedding rings. For firefighters, it is more than being just knights in shining armor. It is more tragic than romantic. A story filled with much loss and mourning, fear and dread.
Despite it all, they show up for work every day, ready to take on the day’s challenges, no matter the cost.
Firefighters have been protecting us from whatever misfortune comes our way. They put out fires, go into fires to save people, tend to the wounded, and keep them safe for as long as they can.
When people run away from danger, they run towards it. Ironic, right? When most people are panicking in fear, firefighters help them calm down despite their own fears. Whenever there are fires, explosions, traffic accidents, natural disasters, and other catastrophes, they are usually the first responders on the scene. They are at risk of getting burnt, inhaling smoke, and being crushed by collapsing structures and debris. Some long-term health hazards include persistent coughing, asthma, heart diseases, lung damage, and cancer. They are aware of the dangers of the job, but they go ahead and do it anyway.
What most folks don’t realize is the mental and emotional pain firefighters go through. As first responders, they are often exposed to high stress and high stakes environments. Often, they see tragic and traumatic events unfold before their very eyes.
The trauma leaves them scarred for life with constant playbacks and dealing with guilt, thinking if they were only a little bit faster, or went to this location first instead of the other, or attended to this person first. They have seen horrors that most of us cannot even begin to fathom and comprehend. They deal with sadness and fear knowing that the next casualty could be them. They mourn for the loss of life even if they don’t know the person.
Like soldiers, firefighters experience post-traumatic stress disorder, which comes from seeing too many traumatic events that leave a mark on their psyche. They get anxious. They get depressed. Still, they show up every single day.
The demands of the profession affect a firefighter’s family life. The long hours they clock in make maintaining a proper work-life balance challenging. On average, they work 10 24-hour shifts in a month. They don’t get any holidays off.
When you’re out having a barbecue and enjoying fireworks on the 4th of July, these guys are on patrol. When you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with your families, they are holed up at the fire station, anticipating an emergency call. When you are cozily cuddled up by the fireplace waiting for Santa to arrive, they are out there keeping everyone safe.
Firefighters are sometimes regionally deployed to help fight and contain wildfires or assist in emergency and disaster zones. These long work hours greatly affect their time with their families which can sometimes lead to familial disconnection and discontent. When they signed up for the job, they are trained and educated about all these things not knowing how real all of these are and how big an impact these will have in their lives.
Firefighters do more than just fight blazes. They give up so much of themselves just so we can enjoy our rights to a safe and secure environment. The next time you see a firefighter, be sure to let this all-American hero know that their work is appreciated and they are loved by the community.