A Fireman! No more?

Chief Cline

When do you quit being a firefighter? When was the moment, wherever you are in your journey in the fire service, that you stopped being a firefighter? Was it when you made driver? Made Captain? Made Chief? I remember years ago when I was in some social situation with my wife and after an introduction one of her colleagues would ask, “And what do you do?” My response was, “I’m a fireman.” (I will dive into my thoughts on gender titles some other time.) My supporting spouse added in, “He’s also a Captain and a Paramedic.” While that was true and I was not trying to conceal those facts, my first response was that I am a fireman. 10 years, and a couple promotions later, I still like to say that I’m a firefighter. Do I get to spray water? Force doors? Perform a search? Vent the roof? Rarely, and it is a blessed treat when it comes along.


I will admit that I have weaseled my way in on a few extrications here and there with the justification that, “They just needed another pair of hands.” But that’s about all I get these days. Such is life as a chief officer.


For me the desire is still there. Regardless of the bugles on my shirt I still want to be a firefighter. Given the choice of sitting in a meeting or training on pump ops? Its pump ops every time. QA reports or drill on setting up a Z-rig? Z-rig wins. File training reports or wash the rigs? Hand me the brush.


My point is this. If you can answer that question, if you can point to that spot along your journey that you no longer considered yourself a firefighter, then what are you? The bigger question is, “why are you still here?” Think about all the things that make up being a firefighter, the values and the ideals, the things that drew you into the job. If that isn’t still a part of you and your purpose for serving, then what are you doing it for?


In my opinion, we have no other purpose than to serve. We may serve in different ways, operations, support, training, prevention, but we should all have in our hearts that we exist to serve. Hopefully, along the way in our journey we have retained the essence of being a firefighter. We think of service before self. We think of brothers before self. We see what needs to be done and we do it. We solve problems that our within our realm and we make a difference.


So my question is, are you a firefighter? And if there is any hesitation in your response, how can you get back to it?


– Chief Dave Cline

Hooks & Hooligans Senior Correspondent



  1. Chief Cline, excellent article . I think you would like my book. It is at premiumpressamerica.com
    Firefighter Clark

  2. Good column , even after leaving the Dept i still want to donate back to my new community. It is true, once a fireman always a fireman

  3. Great words to live by. Glad to be able to still be a firefighter no matter the rank and serve the community I love.

  4. Chief Cline,
    I know what you me. A couple weeks ago I was working with a firefighter who is study for the Captain’s test. He asked if I would mind if he rode the front seat for some practice and feedback. I rode backwards for the first time in a while. Although we didn’t have any fires, it was fun just being the patient guy that day.

  5. Chief,
    After 25 years on my department, when asked, I still call myself a fireman. I earned a set of crossed bugles 5 years ago but still have the heart and soul of a firefighter. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I was in the fire service for 19 years and rose to Assistant Fire Chief of a rural volunteer fire department in central Oklahoma. I learned early on that there was no job that I would not do if I expected one of my firefighters to do it, no matter my rank. Fortunately for me, sometimes on calls we did not have enough firefighters show up so I still got to be on the nozzle, drive the truck, or pump the chest. I still got to be in on the excitement in addition to having the responsibility, etc. I always led by example and always told the firefighters in my department that there was nothing I would ask them to do that I would not do myself from rolling hose to cleaning the toilet. I was proud to hold myself to that standard!! I always enjoyed every aspect of it. I never stopped being a firefighter — it is in my blood!!

  7. After 29 years of service, 25 as Career and the past 4 as Chief of Department, I commend your article! I am a firm believer that each and everyone of us, from Chief all the way down to “newbie”, career or Volunteer, should be training someone to replace us. As an instructor, I still feel the excitement of being on the attack line, picking up the lines, whatever! And never ask anyone to do a job you wouldn’t do yourself!!! ALWAYS A FIREMAN!!!

  8. great reminder. A few years ago in the middle of my shift I had a stroke. Long story short,I was unable to do the job. Although I have mostly recovered I found I had lost my identity. I was no longer fireman Bill to our community. I was outside the inner circle of the guys at the station and that whole life seemed farther away everyday. I got depressed inevitably. Finally I had to ask myself why I became a firefighter in the first place. The answer was simple, to serve others. I didn’t need to respond from the fire station for that. Today I volunteer in our town helping less fortunate people and find that I make as much a difference as I ever did. Because of what’s in my heart I can still call myself a firefighter.

    • After 46years with CFD retiring as 10th Batt. Chief and Prez of CFFU Local 2, I still am a FireFighter of a 4th generation family. And so Proud to say that too.

  9. Fireman are just guys when called upon act in whatever the situation i have been in fire service for 25 yrs my dad is retired from fire service and would get on a truck in a second if they would let him and he retired 19 yrs ago i saw my dad cry 3 times in his life one of those was at him retirment party when he look over as a pumper crew went on a call and with big tears in his eyes he said. Son ill never get to ride a truck again so as i get closer to retirement i understand how he feels and am proud to say i am and always be a fireman

  10. Even after being retired for 4years when I’m asked I say I’m a fireman just retired.once a firefighter always a firefighter

  11. Firefighter are for sure doing gods work. But let’s not think you have to be a “Firefighter” to serve others. …and while you are being a Firefighter, who is doing the lowly Chief’s stuff, like keeping everyone safe. I get you still have the urge, but seriously, everyone needs to play their part; and yours I’m guessing is not hands on.

  12. Even after being out of the fire service for over 3 years, I still have my fingers in it. I now work in a small community public library (still serving the public). A few months ago, one of our regular customers suffered a seizure while sitting at the computer. Guess who everyone called on to assist? Yep, you got it — me!! Once a firefighter, always a firefighter!! I was there in a flash — response time was about 10 seconds.!! Great feeling to still be needed. Patient was awake and talking by the time emergency services arrived on scene. Good day at the library!!

  13. I recently steeped down from front line firefighting. I started when I was in the NAVY aboard a submarine. I started as a volunteer on my off time, and the when I was out of NAVY I went full time. That was 20 years ago. I steeped down before my retirement because I lost the nerve to be inside of fires. So I did what I could I help any was I can. I will run Trucks fill packs roll hose wash anything and teach any thing I have learned and still learn something or relearn any thing to help. because being a fireman isn’t just pulling a hose in the door and spraying water. Its being a team and helping any way u can. That’s what keeps me going. I learned that from my two chiefs that will always be my chiefs, Morris and Cecil.

  14. Robert Jorgensen

    Great article with a lot of truth. Unfortunately after 24 yrs, rising to the rank of Lieutenant/Paramedic/Firefighter, I was forced to retirement/disability due to an injury. I have been gone for 4 yrs and miss it everyday. Advise – learn your job every shift, teach the probie, be safe, wear your gear because not being there able to do it sucks!

  15. I chased the dream job for over 5 years did everything right became a reserve firefighter , had the greatest time . I experienced the brotherhood and community appreciation , I was on cloud 9. Forward that 15 years as a career captain …..!i am truly de aster to what has been going on, we serve 250 square miles with 3 fire stations, 9 personnel a day. Our department has basic target safety training and our drills are never performed everyone is burned out and demoralized . Our community has said no to any increase I taxes so we can open up two more stations that were closed , we have laid off 19 guys, there is several people on injury and a few others with anger problems and substance abuse. Add to that the abuse that people put on the 911 system and how poorly dispatch takes and prioritize calls . We have a recipe for self destruction. After 15 years I can honestly say that I can walk away and have no problems leaving the fire service. When people ask me what I do , I can honestly say that when I respond I am s firefighter there is no pride on my voice.

  16. With over 50 years in the fire service, from probie to a Chief (Career and Volly), I will always consider myself as a firefighter. Retired and no longer live in the area where I was a firefighter, but there is a career station near my home and I find myself going there just to hang around and get my “fireman fix”. Still feel the thrill of hearing sirens. If it’s in your blood, it will always be in your blood.

  17. Great article Chief!! Here is my philosophy on the subject…

    There are no ex firemen our title is earned not given and what’s earned is ours forever, just like a Marine!!

    The term firefighter in today’s kinder gentler fire service is vastly different from the way I came up… So, I am a FIREMAN and I’m damn proud of it!!

    A quote I learned long ago that has always stuck with me to this day…

    “I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firemen have to do believe that his is a noble calling.

    “We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor.

    We are defenders from fires of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind.

    But, above all; our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men-the work of God Himself.

    Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice.

    Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.”

  18. I’m and a firefighter and love it. Riding the Rig is the BEST! Nice Article. Thanks for Loving the Job!

  19. I retired at 27 years because the state of ok gave me three year on my pension due to my military time during the 60’s… which give me a 30 year retirement. I had 4 bugles on my badge when i retire as the second high chief on the dept. “I NEVER CALLED MY SELF A FIREMAN” (fireman are people who stoke broiler on a train or ship) My dept referred to all of us as “FIRE FIGHTERS”. simply because that was our job. of course we had all the fancy titles. like, Watercourse Hydraulic engineer . These titles are important because you can pay a fire fighter chit, buy you have to cough up the bucks for an engineer.. and it goes without saying, if you start at the bottom and work your way to the top you will all ways be a Fire Fighter , no matter what the rank… and thats my Rant for today…

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