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Test of Courage



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Life of a Firefighter
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Unless you're a firefighter, no one can really understand what we do. We have a special relationship. We have to live for 24 hours together. It's not like an eight-hour day where you can put on a fake thing for eight hours and then you go home. Here, this is our home.

- Frank Tijiboy, Oakland Fire Dept.

Firefighters in Kitchen

Firehouse as Home
In most urban departments, firefighters work 24-hour shifts. The schedule involves a rotation of three shifts, so that two of every three days are free. Since firefighters literally live together for 24 hours, the firehouse becomes a combination of work and home, and coworkers constitute a sort of second family. Firefighters often spend more time with crew members than with their own families.

The station is fashioned like home, placed in a work setting. There are officer's quarters, a dormitory-type sleeping area, a communal bathroom with showers and toilets, a big kitchen and a lounge or TV room. In most stations, meals are eaten at a large table in the kitchen. Outdoor areas may also include a barbecue, a patio or a deck. Firefighters share personal living space and eat meals together while on duty. To make things work, crewmembers must be trustworthy and participate in household chores. As Carol Chetkovich writes, "a good firefighter is someone who can perform not only on the fireground or at a medical emergency, but also as a good roommate or family member."


Although the life of a firefighter may seem exciting and glamorous, it has many challenges. Camaraderie and strong bonds between coworkers, along with respect from grateful members of the community is extremely rewarding. However, firefighting is a physically demanding and dangerous occupation.

Chetkovich observes, "Meeting such hazards requires certain kinds of personal and social qualities, the physical capacity to do the work, the stamina to continue strenuous activity for hours with little rest. But the work requires firefighters to 'think on their feet,' rapidly assess the problem at hand, plan a course of action and then quickly react when conditions change. Throughout an emergency, a firefighter must maintain a constant and heightened awareness, never losing sight of the broader picture while attending to a specific task."

Other challenges include a work schedule that requires nights and weekends away from home, sleep deprivation due to work schedule and anxiety and a high level of stress due to exposure to trauma and tragedy.

I have a different perspective on death now - because we see so much death and we hear about death around us, it makes me more conscious of the fact that life is temporary. And for everyone - not just myself being a firefighter but for everyone - we should live our lives every day, because it might be our last.

- Tina Moore, Oakland Fire Dept.

Tina Moore

Adventure, challenge, variety, teamwork, service, skill and satisfaction are all aspects of a firefighter's life. Most firefighters claim that it's the best job in the world.

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