Skip to comments.Why 20 Years Firefighting May Be Enough For Me (Warning: Dark Content)
Posted on 06/27/2014 2:37:10 PM PDT by Fitzy_888
Twenty years ago I thought I would do this job forever. I had a dream: work in Providence till I was 60 and they threw me out, and then move somewhere else where they have a volunteer department and I could put my experience to good use. The department offered a 50 percent pension after 20 years, we contribute 9.5 percent of our pay toward the fund, and the city contributes the rest. Thats nice, I thought, never considering that I would actually leave after 20.
Time marches on, and 20 years passed in the blink of an eye. The person I was when I started is long gone; a different, more somber, at times cynical person has taken his place. People who walked in my shoes fought for the 20-year pension deal, knowing from experience that 20 years in firefighter time is a long, long time. They knew, as only one who lived the life will ever know, that for some, 20 years is enough. They knew that at 45 or 50, starting a new career is not that easy, or starting a business when everybody else had a 20-year head start is challenging, to say the least.
I remember sitting in at a critical incident debriefing a few hours after I held two dead infants in my arms. My latex gloves melted into their skin their bodies were so hot as I tried unsuccessfully to revive them with my new CPR skills. I bagged the one-year-old Savannah was her name I found out later while doing compressions on the other, John. It was rough, but it was what I had signed on for.
The guy who brought the babies from the fire to me was a 20-year veteran firefighter, a tough guy by all accounts. When it was his turn to speak he filled with tears, and couldnt. He hung his head and valiantly tried to express his feelings, but couldnt. He left the room. A few months later he was gone. Retired. He told me much later that it wasnt necessarily that call that did it; it was all the calls leading up to and including that one that finished him. He simply could not do it again. I should have learned a lesson that day, but mired in the arrogance of youth I hadnt lived enough to sense my own frailty. I was invincible. I thought of him the other day, as I drove home from what I thought was an unremarkable tour. As I neared my street, I thought of the little girl who claimed to have injured her knee and refused to move from the gymnasium floor. Her mother looked on from a distance, annoyed as I tried to figure out what was wrong. No bleeding or deformity, swelling or anything really. She showed me her other knee as a comparison, and I noticed bruises, weeks old on both legs, and both arms, and a haunted look on her face. I let it go. We cant save everybody, and she probably is just an active kid who bruises easily. Or not.
I turned onto my street, and had to stop the car. Where was the little girl now? Was she home, in her room, reading or watching TV, or was she being punished for being a crybaby, like the kid a few weeks ago whose mother called us because her son fell from his bed fell and had severe head trauma and curling iron burns on his legs. It took 10 minutes for me to pull myself together before I could walk in my door and not bring 20 years worth of memories with me.
I havent been sleeping well. Its been going on for months now. Every night that Im home Ill go into a fitful slumber around midnight, only to be fully awake at around 2 a.m. I toss and turn for hours, finally getting some relief from my spinning mind at sunrise, only to be back up an hour later. I grab an hour here and there as time permits but have no idea what a full nights sleep feels like, unless it is drug-induced, but I try to avoid that.
What runs through my mind is probably similar to every other person my age are the kids really okay, will the bills get paid, am I truly happy or is this just an illusion, is that spot on my back the cancer that will kill me or just a mole. Then I get the ghosts.
The baby run over by the 18-wheeler as it turned the corner on North Main and Doyle, dead in the middle of the street, the baby carriage twisted and crushed 100 feet from the body.
The guy buried alive at sunset on Dorothy, and his lifeless arm that was the first thing we dug up.
The 20-year-old guy and his 20-year-old friend dead in the front seat of their Mustang at the Atwells Avenue off-ramp.
The 55-year old guy who was new at motorcycle riding who tapped a rear view mirror, lost control on 195, flipped over the Jersey barrier and was crushed by a Toyota Camry full of kids. We found his foot later, still in his boot
The 18-year-old tattoo artist found hanging in his basement by his roommate.
My friends brother found hanging in his bedroom closet. A RISD student found hanging from the wrought iron fence at Prospect Park.
The kid found hanging off the side of his house on New Years Eve.
The 55-year-old who told his wife he was going golfing, started his car, didnt open the garage door and died next to his clubs.
The 40-year-old who held up traffic while he considered jumping from the overpass, then did as the crowd that had formed cheered.
The college kid who fell 80 feet to his death the week before Christmas.
The baby who rolled himself into his blanket and suffocated, while his dad was napping on the couch.
My friend Kenny who had a heart attack at his third building fire of the day, and had to be defibrillated, and came back to life but not the job.
The 17-year-old girl who bled to death in the front seat of a car that had struck a tree while eluding police as her friends picked her pockets of the crack vials they were selling.
The baby born dead and put into a hefty bag.
The woman dead in her kitchen with a bullet hole in her forehead and her three children sitting on a couch in the next room.
The two babies that broke the veteran firefighter.
The eight-year-old deaf girl who broke my heart when I learned she had been prostituting for her foster parents.
The 20-year-old dancer dead in her car after taking all of her pills, and the vomit-covered note on her lap.
The family dead behind the front door as the fire burned out of control behind them.
Delivering a baby in the back of the rescue and having the mother yell get that thing away from me when I handed it to her.
There are dozens, hundreds more, all waiting for that delicate twilight between sleep and consciousness to come uninvited into my mind. More join the parade every day that I come to work. Just the other week a 23-year-old hit and killed while walking home from a nightclub, a 30-year-old guy shot in the head, back and legs who walked to the rescue and then collapsed.
I am not a machine. I am a simple person who signed on to do a job, and have done it well. If I choose to leave this year, I will do so with my head held high, and hope that the pension that didnt matter to me 20 years ago, but has become my lifeline, is still there.
Good luck to you...I hope that peace comes to you....
(I still have dreams of Vietnam)
That’s messed up.
I wonder how first reponders like this don’t have PTSD and other issues like returning soldiers. I’m guessing many do.
Thank you for what you and all firemen and police do for us.
so dear fireman....spare us....you're lucky you can get out after 20 yrs...
Makes you wonder what happens to people when "active shooter" drills are conducted and enacted by emergency response teams - without first telling everyone it's a drill and getting their agreement to participate.
Does it frighten them? Does their fear matter? Well, if you frighten a cop he can shoot you dead merely because you frightened him. But when a massive part of the emergency response government teams create a psyop designed to convince you that a crazy person is, in fact, murdering people all around you...
...hey - get over it.
And if you don't, you can't sue anybody, because it's the government. And if you get PTSD or any other problem, you get no support for it. And if you get out a gun to defend yourself from an insane shooter, and the cops see you trying - why, they'll shoot you dead.
To protect everyone from what they fooled you into believing by creating a level of stress in you that - if it was done to them - would have resulted in them killing people to "eliminate the threat."
To protect everyone from terrorism.
One of the reasons that so many apparently healthy men retire at 50 from that job. The taxpayer in me says stuff like “why the hell should someone retire at 50-60 with that kind of income and benefits” and/or “that’s what you signed on for, buddy”....but how many could really do that job after 20 years like he just described?
I know I couldn’t do it.
God bless YOU! Firemen, while at times it might be rough, have nothing on floor nurses. My wife has been one over twenty years. The crap you have to put up with from patients, families, interns, doctors etc., on a daily basis is amazing.
Public pensioners can go piss up a rope.
I just 7 short replies, we see a range of replies from sympathy and compassion to this individual to “suck it up, crybaby.”
I have a friend who is a fire fighter. I asked him how he could handle it. He told me you get used to it.
If you've had enough, then retire. I for one wouldn't blame you. But I never would have been in that line of work to begin with.
Not sure where you where you live but in WA state can retire at 53 as a cop...good luck living in that state nice we dont make 50% after 20....and we dont get medical either...same boat as you baby....
So, you can retire from firefighting when you’re 50 but you still have to work somewhere as you can’t collect the retirement until you’re 60-65YO, yes?
Great screename..stupid post...no active shooter training happens without telling people ahead of time....unless you live someplace with the absolute dumbest peole on the planet in charge.
By the way...thanks for your service...I love nurses....and not just cuz they are hot and bring me morphine when i get rupture my paella tendon chasing someone at work.....;)
Busy mostly cuz your hot.....:)
And you retired at the age of 45????
A typical employee in the private sector such as the auto industry (me) could never retire with only 20 years seniority until I was 60 years old..........
Wish I could have retired at 40 with half pay. Wish I could retire at 70 with half pay.
My nephew ia a paramedic in New Orleans. Katrina was his baptism of fire. Now,9 years later, he`s just about burned out at 32. I`m encouraging him to write a first-person book. What first responders see is horrific. Prayers for you all!
As a side note, I had my air conditioning compressor replaced last summer by an active Detroit fire fighter who had a very profitable heating and cooling business on the side.........LOL!
the pension and benefits start at retirement. social security starts at 62 or when you decide, if you participated in it. the reason the retirement age is so young is due to actuarial tables that say how long your job stress levels and health let you live after retirement. first responders and law enforcement/corrections tend to only live 3-4 years after retirement, usually 57 as mandatory for feds.
“Wish I could have retired at 40 with half pay. Wish I could retire at 70 with half pay.”
Hell, I wish I could just retire!
Some of the events listed appear to be positively dark comedy. To wit or perhaps witless: The 18-year-old tattoo artist found hanging in his basement by his roommate. Alas a veritable Van Gogh of buttocks art taken away all to soon.
I’m of two minds on this.
I know it’s a stressful job and a hard one. Don’t know if I could do it and I’m sure glad the good ones are there.
OTOH, everyone knows that going in yet there’s always a wait list to get those jobs. The pay is darned good, the hours are sporadic (I realize they’re on duty for long periods, but how much of that is actually spent first responding), benefits are excellent, retirement is near phenomenal compared to the private sector, thanks to the unions they have near absolute job security and they tend to strike (even when illegal) if everything isn’t going their way, and they get a lot of perks too.
I have to say, it’s a wash for me. If they were doing it for minimum wage in the private sector rather than what they get using my tax dollars, I’d have more sympathy.
As it is, I’m sorry that I’m leaning toward saying suck it up, Bunkie. Work sucks. Get used to it. Be happy you get paid extra for the extra suckiness you have to endure. Take care of your health and be safe and maybe you’ll get out more than you put in.
I understand your nightmares. God bless you and thank you for helping so many.
A buddy of mine (fire chief) mentioned about how they use “fake” fire (propane) for training instead of just setting a bunch of crap on fire. “We die early enough already.”
I questioned him more about the “dieing early” and he was talking about all the crap they breath in, the stress, etc. He wasn’t complaining, just stating the facts.
“Every time you drive to the store you go by the intersection where you had to peel the kid off the pavement, the freeway exit where you pulled the bodies and body parts of the entire family out of the car and off the road, etc.”
Bless your heart. Thank you for your service, and may God grant you peace and happiness .
I guess I’m with you -two minds. That’s kinda why I posted it. An old friend,, firefighter, posted it on Facebook.
It struck me as I use to work in construction and I saw someone literally torn apart and still alive, I thank god he wasn’t conscious. That screwed me up for a good while. Conversely, I once saw someone fall three stories (30 feet +), land so close I felt it through my shoes, lay on the ground and demand nobody touch him, 30 minutes later he refused any help from an ambulance and finished the work day -unbelievable.
Cal Peace Officer and Fire Fighter pension formula.
3% of highest year salary times years of service at age 50. maximum take 90%. Must be 21 to start job.
This formula was enacted under Gray Davis after bribes from state unions. Then the cities and counties accepted the formula to stay competitive in hiring.
I retired under old formula. 2.5% at 50 3.0 at 55%. I was 52 after my heart attack.
My retirement was generous, but the bump to 3.0 at 50 broke the bank. The state and taxpayers still reeling.
PS I know a state manager who got 108% back in the day of no limits. He was at 2.5 (non-peace officer) 40+ years.
Stupid screename... stupid post... active shooter drills happen all the time without telling people, and it's a growing problem all around the country. Next time spend 30 seconds on Google before spouting off.
If I wanted to spend five minutes instead of 30 seconds, I could fill the page with stories like these. This crap is out of control and does nothing but spread fear to children, employees and everyone it touches. It's insane.
Even better - admit you made a mistake about your nature and the career you thought you wanted, and start over. Find something you like to do.
So many people feel trapped when there are choices all around them.
Hubby retired after 33 years. He has the most cynical, deadly sense of humor I have ever seen. His whole crew was like that. In all the years he worked there was only a few calls that really bothered him. I could always tell when he came home and then would shower multiple times in one day. He told me about them when I asked. Other than that he never ever talked about the calls. When they were done they were done.
That's the way it is with police crime scene technicians. (But we only dealt with the dead).
The person who wrote the OP has my understanding and my sympathies. I did 5 years, and that was plenty. There was no pay and no pension. It was for the love of the job, but the honeymoon wore off.
I’m glad there is a pension in it for that firefighter. He sounds like he’s got a case of PTSD and I hope he gets help.