I’ve only been on the job for four years; one year as a volunteer firefighter and three years as a paid firefighter. In my book, I am still a rookie firefighter, even though there are eight probationary firefighters underneath me. I still have a lot to learn before I even consider myself a senior firefighter. I was lucky enough to have grown up in the fire service as a kid watching my dad and seeing how things should be done the right way. I was raised on how you would say, the “Old School Mentality”. Everyone is, “Sir” and “Ma’am”. Respect your elders, treat people and others with respect, and always help others when you see that they may need help. The same can be applied to the fire service. As a probationary firefighter, respect the senior firefighter and your superiors. Address them as “Sir”, or “Ma’am”, or FF Smith, or Lt. Smith. Treat your senior firefighters and superiors with respect, and listen to what they have to say. Always be involved with your crew and lend a hand when your crew is working on something in the station, even if you don’t know how to do it. This is how you learn by watching others and seeing how they do things. As a green, brand-new probationary firefighter with no fire background, it can be hard to know exactly what to do.
This would be where a good, quality senior firefighter, steps in and shows him/her the ropes. As a senior firefighter, show them what their responsibilities are each day they come onto shift. Show them how to take pride in their station by making sure everything is clean and presentable. If the public walks in, or a chief comes by the station, they can see that we’re not just a bunch of lazy slobs who sit on the recliner all day and watch Netflix. Show them how to take pride in their truck by cleaning all the tools, making sure the hose is loaded the proper way, making sure the nozzles and ladders are clean and in good working order. Show them how things run correctly within the department by going over the SOG/SOP’s and how certain paperwork gets done properly, how reports are written, etc.
Go over the unwritten rules of a probationary firefighter such as:
1. last one to eat, first to clean the dishes.
2. make sure all the chores are done promptly.
3. last one to bed, first one to rise.
4. make sure the station is secure at night.
5. arrive an hour before work so you can settle in and get ready to work before everyone else.
6. have the newspaper and coffee ready before everyone wakes up.
Remember, as the new guy on the block, there is a lot to be expected in your first year. First impressions mean everything. It’s how you present yourself that’s either going to make you a great firefighter, or a firefighter everyone regrets hiring. If you don’t know how to do something, ask your senior man, if he can’t help you then move through the chain of command. Always admit your faults and never try to hide them, it will only hurt you in the end and no one wants someone at their station that can’t be trusted. But more importantly, remember that this is the best career in the world and that you’re in this for something much greater than the money or benefits you may get. Always do your job, wear your department uniform with pride and stay away from the sour, negative people who want to tear their department down because they can’t get their way. As the new guy on the block, never be discouraged if you’re with a bad crew. We have all been there at some point in our careers; it’s up to you to do the right thing and not fall into the trap they have set up for you. Stand up and show them how great this job is, because it is the best job in the WORLD!