All jobs have things we don’t like. When you pick your career you think about those things , but until you actually get the job and work in the field for a while you never really know what will make your list of things you don’t like. After a few years, or a few decades those bad things are right on the tip of your tongue. I asked a few veterans what really bothered them about being a firefighter. Here they are in random order.
There are different schedules for firefighters all over but the most common (to me at least) is working 24 hours and then being off for 48 hours. That means we work every third day, no matter what day. We work Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. We work Christmas, and our kids birthdays. We also work our anniversary and days that are important to our families.
Before you say “ a lot of people like nurses and police work holidays” remember that we work the entire 24 hours. So when a nurse works a shift they work 8 hours and can celebrate the holiday the other 16 hours of the day. When a firefighter works Christmas they usually leave home before the kids get up, or the kids get up extra early to have Christmas with Dad. When we come home from work Christmas is over. That’s a big difference. When we work a holiday we miss the whole thing.
The first thing people ask about our schedule is; How do you stay up that long? Well we don’t have to stay up all night, we actually have beds that we are allowed to sleep in while on shift. Don’t mistake sleeping in a room full of snoring firefighters with sleeping at home next you your spouse. There is never a night at the firehouse that provides as restful nights sleep as you get at home.
Most nights we are up two or three times to respond to calls. That might be more or less depending on where you work, but even without getting up, the sleep is not the same. It’s kind of like sleeping with one eye open waiting for a call. Getting up at night for a call or two can really mess you up for the next day.
Working in the cold is tough. There is just something about spraying water around when the temperature is below freezing that doesn’t sound right. No matter what you are expected to do, when it is cold it is much harder.
Other than the obvious water freezing problem, operating any kind of tools is tough in the cold. Face pieces fog up on SCBA masks, oils in hydraulic tools gets thick, and trudging through the snow all add to the dislike of working in the cold weather. Driving in snow and ice is tricky, and walking on ice while you drag a hoseline can put you on your butt in a hurry.
These might not be on everyone’s list but they are on the top of most firefighters lists. It’s a great job, but every job has it drawbacks, even the best job in the world.