I read an article in today's L A Times' "Opinion L.A." section: "Contempt for firefighters won't solve L.A.'s budget mess". First, the title disturbed me. I have a lot of respect for firefighters and for their work in the community. I don't know any firefighters personally and I'm not even vaguely related to one and have never needed their assistance (knock on wood) but theirs is a noble calling. Second, the article's title immediately brought to mind many of the photos and news articles I've read that provided insight into what it is to be a firefighter. I recall that some local firefighters went to New York City after the attacks of September 11, 2001, to provide heroic service not only to a community 2500 miles away but to the nation. I've seen photos of firefighters resuscitating the limp bodies of children and animals. I've read about firefighters who lost their lives when enveloped in a wildfire. I just can't picture the dark boiling chasm from which some of these commenters drudge up their ideas and their venom.
One commenter compared firefighters to bridge attendants. Not to belittle bridge attendants (I've never been one), but I doubt their professions require them to climb 6 stories worth of stairs while wearing a 90 pound pack and hauling a fire hose. Another commenter was angry that firefighters make huge salaries (I have no idea how much firefighters make) and aren't required to have more than a GED. I won't continue to reiterate the comments -- they don't deserve to be repeated and they break my heart.
There may be valid criticism about firefighting procedures. There may be organizational waste that can be trimmed but writing comments pointed at firefighters which aren't based in fact incites the uninformed and certainly doesn't help solve the budget problem.
I've stopped by my local station on Thanksgiving Days, Christmas Days and New Years Days and there's always a crew on duty. As a citizen observer I've been in a fire station eating dinner with a firefighting crew when the alarm sounded. The crew was on the truck, fully geared-up and on their way in 30 seconds. That kind of reaction only happens with training, determination, focus, dedication and more training. When they came back they took care of the truck and their gear first -- in preparation for the next call -- before sitting back down to a dinner that had to be warmed in the microwave.
Commenters, here's what I do know about firefighters:
They have to stay fit, maintain their own gear and the station house equipment, have to buy their own groceries and cook for themselves during their 2 or 3 day rotation, have to leave their families for days at a time so they can be available to save the lives.
Firefighters often can't afford to live in the communities they protect and -- for all I know -- may not be allowed to work near their own homes just as doctors usually aren't allowed to operate on immediate members of their family.
You won't care how much firefighters are paid when they save your home or give you oxygen out of their own mask or breathe life back into the lungs of your loved one.
You won't care whether a fire fighter has a GED, PhD or no pedigree if one pulls you from your wrecked car, a burning building or searches for you in a collapsed building in the aftermath of a catastrophe. And yes, firefighters will be there for you when there's a catastrophe.
Firefighters perform a life-or-death service to the communities in which they Serve with a capital "S".
Firefighters often miss important family events in order to serve a community that doesn't even know their names.
More is expected of firefighters and at a higher level of performance than most professions. They are highly trained professionals who are priceless when they are called to serve.
Commenters, you can feel spew contempt for firefighters, you can say mean and heartless things about them and yet -- should they be called upon to do so, they will unhesitatingly save YOUR life.