What is a Firefighter?

Somewhere between the smoky scene of a spectacular fire, the soggy sight of a flooded basement, the misery-filled moments of a rescue squad call or the tricky trip to a building for an elevator block with nervous office girls trapped in it and calling for help, you were sure to have met a most unusual guy called a firefighter. Armed with ladders, hose, masks, rope, power tools or other awesome gear, the firefighter was usually the featured performer. He’s as close to you as the flick of the telephone dial, the twist of the alarm box key. Your calls for assistance are always answered. Junior’s caught in the wringer ….. Grandpa’s gasping for air ….. Uncle Bill fell asleep with his favorite filter tip and Debbie’s been playing with matches. They’re all a most hasty introduction to this fellow called a firefighter. Around the clock, his vigil takes him in all kinds of weather. Holidays, birthdays, he never closes shop. His business is helping you.

Giving directions, cautioning kiddies, inspecting homes, cordoning live wires, clearing fallen trees, visiting schools …. a fire fighter’s duties are varied and many. He drills with the newest devices and studies the latest techniques. A firefighter knows he must be ready at all times for the unexpected. A combination acrobat, athlete, steeplejack, medic, electrician, chemist, locksmith, and man-about-town … he’s a rare combination of talent. He is expected to do most anything and he usually does.

A firefighter plays horseshoes … plays handball too. He’s got to be in top physical condition for the job of protecting you. Safely in bed; you seldom get a chance to see him at three in the morning climbing walls, hanging on ladders and lending a hand to the needy. Risk his life? You bet he does, every time the bell is sounded in the cold of winter or in excessive summer heat, a firefighter is making sure life is safe for you. But a firefighter is a funny guy. He complains of his long hours of duty and then volunteers his off days to help the Boy Scouts, the crippled people, his church; at picnics for the underprivileged, a cookout for the orphans, driving a truck for the Toy’s Repair Club or helping the neighbor with a ladder.

A firefighter is a lot of things to different people. To a taxpayer, he’s a checker-playing bum. To someone he’s rescued from the roof of a smoky building, he’s a guardian angel. To the wide-eyed kids, he’s Batman in a rubber coat. To his family, he’s a father every other day. To his critics, he’s a moonlighter with red suspenders chopping down everything in sight. Despite his rugged armor and rough and tough exterior, a firefighter is a soft sentimentalist at heart. He likes little children and often has quite a brood of his own. He likes the circus parade, pie a la mode and Sundays off. He enjoys camping trips, barbecues, family picnics and most of all … a pat on the back and some friendly words of encouragement like, “Nice work, firefighter. You’re doing a good job!”

by Ray Frankowiak
taken from the CVFD 80th Anniversary program at the
56th Annual Allegheny County Firemen’s Convention