Fire Authority I had always believed that firemen sit In front of flat screen TV’s watching football all day until they got a call to an emergency. Their job was pretty easy for the most part. Most of their shifts were spent relaxing, I was convinced. However, as soon as I stepped foot into Fire Authority Station 3, all the perceptions I had about firefighters quickly flew out the window and I had a near immediate respect for the people working as firefighters. Still, I had questions.
I wanted to know what life was ally like within the walls of the fire station. Did they get along? Did the firefighters keep their work relationships at the station strictly? What about the women? What were their personal thoughts about working in a male-dominated service? All these questions and more were answered for me, and It Is my pleasure to report them and share what I found as I had the incredible opportunity to spend time with the great people of the Fire Authority. I chose to conduct my ethnographic research with the Fire Authority of CO.
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Most specifically, I conducted this research within the fire stations of the Fire Authority, shadowing and interviewing people of various rankings. I chose to research within the fire stations as my main interest was in how life was like in the fire station and what it was like to be a woman in the fire service. I carried out this research by spending around six and a half hours shadowing at the fire stations as well as conducting interviews with two different firefighters, one of which was a driver operator, as well as one battalion chief.
My experience with the fire department was nothing short of insightful and I was truly honored to be around such great men and women that are so willing to serve their community. My first experience at Station 3 began with a smile and a handshake from a firefighter on his shift, eagerly welcoming me Into the station. I had come to meet with a captain at the station, to talk about my ethnography project and begin my research. I first noticed the cards and posters with pictures and drawings from schoolchildren posted on the walls of the main entrance, thanking the station for their work and for letting them sit in the fire truck.
I found this very endearing and interesting as well. I always had the assumption that firefighters might have big egos because of the job they do, but seeing these drawings and pictures of children proudly displayed for everyone in the station to see made me second guess that assumption I had made. I was soon greeted by Mr.. -?? —-, the captain that I had scheduled a meeting with. I was surprised at how kind and welcoming he was towards me, as I thought the captain of a fleer station might be intimidating and cold.
This was far from the case . Was Incredibly helpful and made me feel at ease about my new research project, Introducing me to other fire fighters In the station ND taking me on a tour of the newly renovated facility, making sure to not miss a requesting for fire fighters to step forward if they would be interested in helping me conduct my research, acting as a middle-man to connect me with the people I would be observing and the Job I would be researching.
This involvement and eagerness to help truly impressed me and I am still so thankful for Captain —-g’s assistance with my research. During my near six and a half hours of research time at the fire station, I learned much about the life of a firefighter both individually and life collectively, as a family nit. Being a fly-on-the-wall to this sub-culture was an outright eye-opening experience, especially as I observed and interviewed people that held different positions in the fire authority, like a new fire fighter, a driver operator, and a battalion chief.
One thing that I noticed across the board was that all three of my interviewees believed life within the fire house to be enjoyable. A newer fire fighter at Station 1, said that she “really enjoyed coming to work” and that the other guys at her station and her “Joke around a lot and kind of enjoy the day’. Another interviewee, —–, tells “[his] friends outside of the fire service that [he gets] to come to work and … Hang out with seven like-minded individuals instead of working in a cubicle and staring at a computer all day. He also mentioned that getting called out to work is exciting because “you never know what’s coming next”. The battalion chief I interviewed also had a similar response although he has more responsibilities and what some might say a more stressful title as he oversees 5 engine companies. – -?? described to me a busy shift for the station, especially for himself it seemed, UT told me that they “have [their] rules and regulations that [they] have to stay within but [shifts are] fun. He also mentioned how much people care for one another at the station, saying that they all live together for 24 hours at a time and “it goes from seriousness to engaged in an emergency scene to laughing and Joking and sharing family stories and what have you. ” The men and women within a fire department go through quite a number of things together and eventually become a family unit, finding kinship with one another based on this cultural connection that they all share.
While out on a call, eve me a great example of this by telling me that they are all very involved in each other’s lives outside of work. Not only do they form their own type of family within the fire station, but they also invite their firefighting family into their separate nuclear families, such as babysitting each other’s children, going to 5th birthday parties, et cetera. However, what really made me believe that the firefighters on shift with each other are a real family unit happened on an evening that I was doing some shadowing Halloween night.
The fire fighters had graciously allowed me to Join them for dinner some of the firefighters are incredible cooks) and we were all enjoying our meals and some casual conversation on what new vehicle one of the fire fighters should get, each of us chiming in with our own opinions. One of the men mentioned that his wife kept calling and eventually answered her call, walking away from the table. As I watched him, I knew something was wrong. He asked her what had happened. Okay, I’ll be right there,” he told her, and coming back to the table, he simply told us he to take and many got up and followed him out into the hallway, one of the men, worried, saying to another, “l hope nothing happened to the baby. From what I gathered at a later date from another interview I conducted and to my relief, one of the man’s children had gotten injured but the injuries were not serious. However, I found this situation a great example of the strong bond and connections these people all have with each other and supports the idea that their Job is not merely Just their Job, but a huge part of their life on every level.
As a female, my other interest was in how life was in the fire station for women. I had the opportunity to interview a woman firefighter working at Station 1 . Had all positive things to say when I asked her what life was like working as a male in the male dominated fire service, but did note that she believes “no matter what you’ll always have to prove yourself. ” Some guys will accept you right off the bat, and some guys won’t until you’ve proven yourself in the station she said.
Interestingly, where some would see this as sexist and think that the men don’t trust you because they think you’re “weaker” in a sense, tried to see this as a positive thing. She told me that she understood why she has to gain their trust, because she is their backup and will have to save their life if she needs to, Just like they would her. Alternatively, when I asked the men if they believed it was different or difficult for women firefighters, they all said, in some way or another, that essentially it was not and that they saw the women as equals.
Yet, from a woman’s point of view, one might feel the need to prove oneself. I did make a mental note that every station is different and not every woman and man shares these same views. Another interesting contrast I made between the men and the women was that when asked how they cope with the demands of their Job, nearly all of the men I talked to said that they used humor as their coping mechanism. When I asked Jean, on the other hand, her response centered around staying calm and relaxed. That’s the key,” she said, “stay calm and don’t let the emotional piece come in. ” In a Job where emotions run high and you bear witness to many tragic incidents, it’s easy for one to become emotionally involved which will inevitable affect a person’s performance. Additionally, Jean said that living a healthy lifestyle was important, such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest on your days off. The differences between men and women were apparent, but the bottom-line of Hess were that they were positive differences that were simply inherent by human nature.
Jean’s resiliency and her love towards her career really inspired me, especially as I head into a career of my own in a male-dominated industry. My experience with the Fire Authority of is an experience that cannot be duplicated or forgotten. What began as a required research project ended as an experience that I actually learned something valuable from. Furthermore, all of the questions I had about the social hierarchies and relationships within the station as well as the struggles women firefighters face on their own were answered in multiple says from multiple perspectives.
I would like to end this study with some insight from driver-operator When asked about what his advice would be to someone coming in as a new firefighter, he left me with some surprisingly helpful advice that I found relevant to and be good at it. If you have any doubts, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because that’s how we all got to where we are, by learning from those who came before us. You got two ears and one mouth, use them proportionally. If you want be good, you have to listen because everybody has something to offer. And know how to brew a good pot of coffee. ”