Saturday, September 3, 2011


I looked through the viewfinder and brought the subject into focus. My subject was a young man, one that I hadn't seen for many, many years. The last time I remember seeing him, he was probably 7 or eight years old. Now he is a university graduate and is sitting for his mugshot portrait and his ID card photo. Today was his second day on the job as a firefighter for my agency.

I briefly worked for his grandfather in the eighties. If I remember correctly, his grandfather is the only person that I know who has been blown into the street twice from natural gas explosions. His grandfather was a captain on B shift and although I wasn't assigned on his crew, I did work for him while swinging through on vacation relief. I always like his grandfather, he treated us fair and made sound decisions. You can't ask for much more than that.

I also worked for the young man's father several years ago. He was my battalion chief for several years after I transferred up the hill. We also deployed to New Orleans together as part of the hurricane Katrina response. We got along well, he allowed me to do my job and forgave my transgressions when I crossed the line. One of these days, I would like to have a few beers with him and discuss a few things. Maybe verify a few perceptions of mine or disprove a few others. Now that I am retired, he just might reveal a few things.

Now, as I photograph the third generation of this young's family to be a firefighter with us, I find the irony of missing working with him by a week. I'll bet that there aren't a whole lot of folks who can say that they have worked with three generations of firefighter from the same family. I missed it by only a few days.

Our administration has a wall with the photograph of every member posted on it. It is laid out kind of like an organizational chart, with the management team on top and the operations division separated by shift and laid out in order by seniority in rank. I don't know who updates the mugshot wall, but they are doing a good job of it. I walked by it today and noticed that my photo is already gone and the man who was promoted into my position has already been moved to the last position of the C shift captain's spot.

In a few days, the photos that I took today will be added to the very bottom of the mugshot wall. In what will seem like only a few days for most, those photos now at the bottom of the wall will work their up the wall. With luck and hard work, maybe one or two of them will be at the top of the wall - up in the management team's section. Good luck with that folks, just don't screw up my beloved department in the process.


As the new firefighters filed into the room, I asked them where they were going to be assigned and who their captains were going to be. Three of them are going onto my former shift, one will be assigned to my replacement at the busiest single company house in the department. Another one of the new firefighters is going to be assigned to a former engineer of mine, one whose dad I worked for back in the eighties. All of the new employees are going to busy stations, always a good assignment for a boot.

Another group will have to be brought on board before the end of the year. This will be a smaller group, probably four or five people. One or two of this smaller group might not be so lucky, they may end up at a slower house. They will likely do well with their studies and drills, but they may not get as much experience as they (and we) would like. Hopefully, those assigned to slower stations will rotate into the big house or other busy station. The big house is an experience that everyone should have, at least for a while. It's where firefighters are made.

Thanks for reading,

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