When it’s my week to be the operator, I have my own routine. Just like everybody else has their own. I wash the truck and scrub the hard to reach areas that others don’t do. Then I check the oil, the medical equipment and the rest of the equipment in the cab, then I pull it out front and run the pump. By this time the truck is mostly dry and I get a towel and spend the next 30min or so polishing all the chrome and stainless steel.
Well, during the polish time today a junior firefighter comes up and tells me “you don’t have to put so much effort into washing the piece”. What? Did he seriously say that?
Do you remember the horses? Strong, dedicated, fearless and outdated. Horses had a shaky start in the fire service, just like every new technology does, but they took over and dominated for 60 or so years. There are stories of horses dying in the harness. Horses that were sold that still race towards fire alarms. Horses that would find the fire and the hydrants for the firefighters. Great animals. But it came time for them to go. Guess why? Financial reasons. Don’t think you are exempt from that reason, you are currently allowed to be at the firehouse because your city has not YET cut the staffing to you. You are allowed to be here because the current technology that your city has decided to afford requires the current staffing level. So, yes I do have to put so much effort into maintaining the truck because I am grateful to have this job.
Here are a few other reasons I put so much effort into making the truck look good.
1. The neighborhood\d LOVES to see us out in front of the firehouse washing the truck. Far more people stop and look. Far more people bring their kids to look, and more people ask questions about what we do. Hmmm, customer service? Community relations? You pick the category.
2. Cities will cut staffing as they see fit. Not too many of us have to look very far to see evidence of that, right Lawrence Massachusetts, Wilmington Delaware Rescue 1?. If the neighborhood loves you they will fight for you, you can ask Boston Engine 50 about that. So making friends in the neighborhood is a good thing.
3. New sprinkler heads (not so new now) that turn off by themselves have the potential to make the down and dirty job of firefighting all but obsolete. Much like what happened to the horses. Sprinkler heads like Grinnell’s F920C and others may still be working the kinks out, but when they get these things figured out they will change our job. Also sprinklers may eventually be required in ALL properties. Real estate developers are currently fighting sprinkler installation in new construction, but even if they succeed in postponing it, it’s still only a matter of time. By the time a new firefighter today gets near retirement age the job will be far less dangerous, have far fewer members and have a higher scope of practice than it currently does. It will be a different job.
I polish the truck for me, my crew and for every member of my community.
I polish it for the horses.