Mental Poison

This one has been brewing for years, and I think it is time to get it out in the open for everyone to share. I really struggle with this topic and it creates a lot of frustration for me to try and comprehend that this is something we are even talking about. Lets just start it out bluntly.

If you’re already set in your ways, and have long ago decided that not only are you going to just simply gather a paycheck but at the same time hold a deep never ending grudge for the guys that are trying to move forward and make this job better, then go ahead,  hold on to that mediocre mentality, sit back for the ride and finish your career in that state, but by all means KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

I am truly sick of new, young, great minds on this job coming to me discouraged because these people have decided to demotivate them and talk trash about myself, my crew and everything we believe in. You know who you are, and I hope you sit back for a second and realize that you are mentally poisoning the youth and future of our job. It is easier for you to verbally bring us down to new guys (because they won’t talk back) then it is to step up and bring your own crew to the front and raise the bar. This is criminal, do you know how big of an impact you have on these guys that are just trying to do the right thing and work hard. They are at a point in their career where they are just looking for guidance on how to do their job right, and trying to figure out what that really means. The good ones are attracted to places where they have mentors that will actually teach them, but then you try and spin us off as “those guys”, and proceed to describe to them every single way that I will ruin their career if they come around me.  That is garbage.

We have a great bunch of people that have come on our job in the last few years, some of the best new guys that I have ever had come through our firehouse and other great ones I didn’t get to work with. Hungry, motivated, self driven, and ready to get better everyday. They are blowing the old expectations  of what it meant to be a good new guy out of the water. When they finish their probation and move on to their own firehouse I  watch with great satisfaction as these new guys start making an impact on their own with their highly motivated mentality of holding themselves to a standard of pursuing mastery of their craft. At the end of the day,  my only goal for them as they rotate through our firehouse, is to mentor and teach them the way I would want to be taught. DSCN2940 - Version 3

If we hold up on our end of the deal of what it means to be mentors, then we will reap the rewards across the entire job as that mentality slowly moves around the city. However, as I have learned first hand, be prepared to put yourself out there and take a beating from a group of people that will fight this type of energy everyday of your career. DSCN0470 - Version 2

Here’s some examples of  the mental poison that is being put into these young motivated minds by others who are threatened by what we are teaching. They tell these guys to be very careful at my firehouse and never let yourself become one of “those guys”. They will say that it’s an easy thing to get sucked into down there and you will see in the long run it is a waste of your time and energy. They will make accusations that we only care about fires but never focus on any other aspect of our job. They will try to convince them that it is all shallow egos, cockiness, and bravado. They will even go as far as to tell these guys that they are training too much and that they will never make it through a career if they don’t take it easy. The list goes on of a hundred different examples that are being used in an attempt to scare them (the new guys) away from ever “being a part of that”.

Let me tell you what being “a part of that” is. Expectations are high, you come to work everyday knowing full well it could be the day where we need you at your best. You check your truck out in the morning like it’s actually your job. That doesn’t mean a walk around the truck, that means halyards are dressed and tied around only one rung. It means batteries are fresh on tools and blades have been replaced. It means running your hands down the chains on the saw to make sure they are sharp enough to grab your skin so you know they are fresh. It means the power heads/saws are getting run everyday. If lines are sloppy they are pulled and re loaded, yes, even in the winter or on a Sunday (what a concept). That is how important our apparatus is to us.


It means training comes first. If your priorities aren’t regularly based around quality company training, I can assure you nothing else will replace it. No amount of drawing on a whiteboard, or talking about hose lays at the tailboard will replace actually doing it. Your email management is not what makes you a good officer! We need leaders who are willing to get dirty and be the first one to step up at the next drill. If you are leading an engine company with one of these new guys on it right now and it has been more than a few shifts since you pulled a line, shame on you. You are  verbally telling them how wrong we are, but your inaction at your own firehouse is sending a far stronger message to them.  I have noticed a common denominator to the trash talking over the years. The more frequently you talk down about us, directly correlates with how infrequently you teach your new guy hose management. DSCN1675 - Version 2

Early on in my career, I was surprised how you almost had to feel bad for feeling this way about the job, I had plenty of times were that atmosphere made it feel like you were in the wrong and almost as if you should apologize for being at a certain firehouse. I got the same talks from guys telling me not to be a part of that, to choose my battles (and that this was not one to be involved in), I was that new guy receiving the same demotivating talks that the current ones are still hearing.

Company Pride does not have to equal unchecked Egos and cockiness. Can they go together sometimes? Sure they can. But 99% of this negative light that is brought on about my firehouse is created outside of it. I am not sure if it is insecurities about their own companies performance, or if they feel bad about the time spent in the lounge chairs while we are out training. But something makes them feel as if they need to discredit everything about us. When you have a group of guys that want to build a crew and their common goal is to be the best they can possibly be, company pride and espirit de corp will always be present. When another fire company does not have this common goal, does not believe in company pride, and sees training as more of a bother, then clearly it doesn’t take a genius to see why they are offended by a highly motivated crew with strong company pride.

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We understand that this high energy mentality that is starting to gain traction with our youth is intimidating. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication to training your new guy, and an all around commitment to raise the bar on your own performance. I am not sorry that we are choosing the hard way, because it is the right way. For those of you who truly believe in this mental poison you are spreading among our youth, keep it to yourselves. If you feel you have to talk to someone about it, I honestly welcome a phone call from you any day I am on shift. I will always have a discussion about this topic, but I will always ask you one question. Can you tell your Chief word for word these beliefs that you are so quick to tell to the new guys? Because I can tell him mine, and I stand behind every word. 

For the young guys that are working hard and trying to be masters of their craft….Keep on going, you are doing the right thing and we will always stand behind you. The right way is rarely the easiest way, and at the end of the day it is pretty clear who’s who.

-Ryan Royal

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68 Comments on “Mental Poison”

    • Ten75 Says:

      Ryan, Great read! It’s too bad the ones that read your article and all the other motivating articles are part of the choir. The ones that need a kick in the ass or to be pushed aside because of their pure apathetic and mediocre attitude don’t read good articles like this one and the like. What’s worse, is when ‘those types’ are in charge of your department and the passion/drive is coming from the blue shirts. Truly, truly depressing

  1. Enzo Says:

    Truly inspiring!!! Thank you. I hope this article finds every recliner in every fire house.

  2. Gary Lane Says:

    Hell yes dude. Hell. Yes.

  3. Rob Fisher Says:

    Bam !! That just happened. Nice work !!!

  4. RHYNO Says:

    RR. Much respect for putting down your thoughts on paper for all to read! I know many people(10%ers and growing) will relate to what you, your crew, and your new guys are feeling and hearing. Keep up the good fight as I know you will! Expectations are set high as they should be. Your doing it right! I think a t-shirt is in order next that says “Apart of That” . I’d buy one. Awesome job brother!


    • Bridget Says:

      Agree with everything said, truly excellent article- just a little side note (not bashing, just to help the point come across more effectively)- make the shirt say “A PART of that” (meaning belonging to that), not “apart of that” (meaning separate from that).

  5. matt Says:

    That is exactly what i needed to hear! Thanks

  6. ben shultz Says:

    Preach on Royal! As I’m sure you know through your networking, your dilemma is not a unique one and is found in fire depts. across the country, unfortunately. You guys keep doing your part, people are listening.

  7. Dave Harms Says:

    Amen- solid words.

  8. Joe Says:

    Sometimes I think the only ones who will read this are the only ones who already care.

    • Michael Fazio Says:

      Joe, I can see your point. An important note is that even if the message is not getting to those that need it the most, your Fire Service Warriors need to know what challenges you face. To create a culture of “being the best that you can be” utilize trades and overtime shifts to show what you are about. That way the previously poisoned firefighters will see what you are really about, not some slug’s point of view.

  9. jon Says:

    This is getting posted in my fire house. THANK YOU!

  10. Michael Fazio Says:

    I am with you.

  11. Manny Says:


    I sense there is frustration and bitterness in your posting. I would encourage you to continue to model the behavior that has made your crew effective, efficient and safe. High performance on the fire ground is that combination of apparatus, equipment , proficiency in the use of both, the proper application of tactic s to achieve the desired objective and of course motivated and skilled members. None of these worthwhile goals can be achieved without study and training.

    Your comments I gather are aimed at some fire company leaders and perhaps others that choose not to get up from their lazy boy recliners and do what you and your fire company does. I do not disagree with your thoughts, I would coach that you give some consideration on how you motivate others to get out of those chairs. Critical comments, especially publically posted will make others defensive and react in a less than desired manner. Rather then others saying, “yes you are right” they will offer critical comments in your direction. Being placed in a defensive position will provoke less mature individuals to defend and attack.

    Continue to take the high road, continue to work and train hard, continue to model the best there is in crew integrity and morale and others will follow.

    When the opportunity presents itself, and it will, meet quietly with those seniority challenged members and model the professional behavior you expose. When the opportunity presents itself, and it will, be open and honest with those less than motivated officers. And lastly, seek promotion so you can from a more formal leadership position move and lead others.

    Best of luck, as Saul Alinski would tell, “the world is not perfect, that’s our challenge, fixing it”.

    • Chief,
      You are right, there was some frustration in this post, I did however wait until I was calm and thinking clearly about the points I wanted to talk about so that I would not speak to sharply or specifically. This post is not aimed at a few specific people by any means, however it is designed to bring up a point that is a wide spread speed bump across the fire service in general. It was designed more to motivate the new guys that do read this and reinforce to them that doing the right thing can be extremely difficult and very rarely without criticism.

      I do agree with you that leading through example is the number one way to express these strong opinions, something I try to do on a daily basis. I rarely seek confrontation because I find that leading through actions typically has a stronger response then through confrontation. As you say, open and loud confrontation usually results in defensiveness instead of improvement. I do know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of misguided attacks, many that were formed without me even being directly involved. As your quote refers to, that is part of the challenge of fixing it and I have accepted that. As always I appreciate you weighing in with your opinions, its great to hear constructive advice and criticism that someone took the time to communicate.
      Thanks Chief


      • Leading by example is a powerful form of motivation, but not the only form. Sometimes I feel like we also need to have the social courage to tell others that their behavior is unacceptable and damaging to our profession. Sometimes it just needs to be said…both privately and publicly. Thanks for having the courage to say it.

  12. Cody Says:

    We call it “spreading the virus”. We’ve gotta increase the numbers of people who truly treat this profession as a craft. The challenge is figuring out what motivates people. I agree with you that by and large the best way to lead is by example. You’re setting a hell of an example for all of us. Strong work.

    • Frustrated Says:

      Well said! There are many of us out here who feel the same way.

      Unfortunately, I work on a shift where all but 2 of us are infected by this mental poison.

      Guys bitch and moan when we have to train, complain about new apparatus that hasn’t even arrived yet, trash talk myself and other individuals on other shifts. They are the ones who always lay around on the sofas, or in their bunks while you are in the gym getting work done. The same crowd who pounds donuts, and horrible food and complain that you eat healthy.

      Hopefully I can get a transfer this year and join a well motivated crew.

      Thanks for speaking the truth!

  13. Ryan,

    A great post. I always find your passion refreshing. If being a rogue means you are doing your job and working as hard as you can to be the best you can be every day then what is the problem?

    I always get a kick out of the politically correct approach to how we look at communicating. We dance around touchy subjects in order to protect feelings. It seems to me that we spend more time protecting the feelings of those who are more comfortable staying inside rather than getting outside and getting better. I believe the focus should be on celebrating those who give back to the profession through passion, learning, teaching, and leading.

    Anyone who gets their feelings hurt by people who are fired up about the job is the problem. Instead of saying to the rogues, “Pump the brakes,” management needs to tell the noisy, complaining people among us to “get on the gas.”

    Continue to lead by example brother. We need to focus less on who gets their feelings hurt by a message that has no downside and get on with doing our jobs.

    Reality is a tough pill for people to swallow.

  14. Verplank Says:

    You, your crew, and crews you’ve worked with in the past have always been a great example of “becoming the change” you want to see in the department. I can honestly say that I usually don’t have the same drive that you do but I admire your work and try to follow your lead. The training and ideas you and your crews have brought forward to the job have been great. Helping the young and old firefighters on our job build a solid skill set foundation and motivate them to grow from the “because so and so said to do it that way” firefighter to the firefighter that has developed ,through training and experience, into the “thinking firefighter” that does things because that’s the way he/she knows will work based on size up, conditions, etc. There are a lot of people, from our job and others, that truly look up to you and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that and from what I’ve seen and heard you seem to shoulder that burden well. Keep pushing forward. Do good work. Continue to be the mentor and show the people watching that you will continue on because it is the right thing to do, not because it’s the easy thing to do.

    • Thanks Verplank, It is encouraging to have this becoming widespread. This isn’t just something that is happening out of one station. Good guys are building great crews that are trying to focus on the basics and really provide mentorship that they may not have had themselves. It is a great thing to be a part of.

  15. Chuck Collins Says:

    Very well said. I agree 100% and totally feel your frustration. I certainly never will understand why some are soveager early on to get into the fire service and then act like its such a burden to try to maintain training to stay sharp on skills and information that may save your life or the lives of your friends/coworkers.

  16. resusRN Says:

    Wow Ryan! So well said. I’m not a firefighter – I’m a flight nurse. I used to work on a critical care ground team that was housed in the same building as an EMS system, and the same kind of problem was there. Seems like it permeates to other prehospital professions too. Your attitude is phenomenal and it resonates with me – I often had the same frustrations and when it comes to medically saving a life, I could never understand why anyone wouldn’t want to climb the ranks or train harder. It’s our business! Who knew if that bit of training, or extra practice with that piece of equipment, or preparation and stocking of the truck were to save our next patient. All I can say though, is keep on trucking. You’re bound to enjoy a fruitful career, both teach and encourage endless others of our kind on the way, and leave your station better than you found it.

  17. NurseWeni Says:

    Great posting, same thing goes for just about any career. I am a nurse and I love my job and my career. I always try to support new nurses (and old ones, too) We all started out with the same goals in mind, but things sometimes change along the way.
    I really don’t like apathy and bitterness. If someone is that miserable in their job or career. Change. Go away. Leave me alone and I will stay with the happy positive people, the ones who are willing to learn new things….Ah I could go on and on..Great post…A Nurse.

  18. Steven LaRosa Says:


    I applaud you in your passion, ability to lead, and having the internal fortitude to reduce it to writing. But not all things are as you see. What you fail to realize is these same people you say hold new hires down, are also the ones who are just paying forward what they were taught. Part of your growth should be to realize we in the fire service do not live in a perfect world, nor are we all created equally. Pushing the envelope is how you develop your crews, and grow as an officer. But compassion for those who do not share your views is also part of the learning process for great leaders.

    As a 30 year veteran I have been on every side of this argument. Nothing is more difficult than realizing what stage you are at, and what is important to you and the crew that you lead. Our moral fiber is what drives each one of us, and what we must realize is that not everyone shares our passion. Great leaders find that mix, treat everyone with respect, and ensure their own growth, as well as those who follow them. As a Wiley veteran, all I can say is give some of us a break. We’ve seen a lot, and are showing the pain of doing this job both with joy, and the sadness a full career brings us. It is the best roller coaster ride we will ever take. Nothing short of spectacular for the entire ride.

    To those veterans who Ryan speaks of, find the internal strength to finish your careers as glorious as you started. Mentor the new hires, because one day, they will have to draw on every single piece you teach them. Remember as they set their career paths they deserve to have every single benefit and pieces of knowledge we fought hard for. Great way to wake up the masses!


    Battalion Chief
    30 plus years of the best job I’ve ever had.

    • Chief,

      I really appreciate your perspective and I have a lot of respect for seniority, especially for veterans like you that are obviously still involved in this job with some passion. I think I do realize what you are saying about people being a product of their environment. I have had long talks discussing how many of these people never had good mentors themselves, and like I say in the article, that just breeds decades of complacency and mediocre standards. I assure you I am not stuck or placing blame on what veterans on the job are doing now, as much as I am voicing a strong opinion about the importance of breaking that mold, tradition, whatever you want to call it and asking guys to step up and mentor. I am someone who is very much against people who only complain about problems or everything they say is wrong with their FD but they never come up with a solution and see it through. If we don’t step up and break this bad habit, then how do we ever see positive change?

      Again, I appreciate your perspective and know that I still have a lot to learn and I by no means pretend to be an expert, even though I find myself in the teaching and mentoring role a lot these days, I always strive to make sure I am a student of the job more hours than I teach it.


      • Perry L. Says:

        Hi Ryan,
        I too would have to echo the chiefs observations. I am a 24 yr vet., 14 yr captain of a medium size career department. Approx. 12,500 calls a year. I worked in our downtown district for 22 years, 13 yrs. as a “training captain” had a ton of young folks on the back of our rig as “new guys” some in the early years and even more so today, come with an attitude that they are entitled, that because they passed a test or got their degree and got a job they have earned their right to that seat on the rig. While they technically have, they are coming into a profession that no class room or video can totally prepare you for. So this can be a two way street. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to paint all new people with that broad brush but I have watch many young FF’s over think something as easy as boarding up a door after a fire because they had to go into there ” vault of Youtube videos” to remember the best way to do it. This is a job about thinking on your feet. Using all the “tools in your bag” including and foremost your brain. I do want to bring one very important point up, we do, like every profession, have our slugs. But we also have senior men and women that bring a ton to the table. Experience and GUTS, something that cannot be taught in a classroom or on a apparatus floor. Informing a mother that here child tragically did not make it. Or holding a crew together after horrific call. These things cannot be taught in a classroom. They can only be learned by observing and listening to those salty old dogs that sometimes may not be as “ambitious” as you but have been down that tragic road many times. Please be careful not to overlook that. I applaud you and your generation for your wanting to be the best you can. Providing the best quality service we can to the citizens we work for. Please keep up the good work. But please remember that that tired old 25 yr. vet “smoke eater” taking a rest in the middle of the day will be either standing right next to you or in front of you at 4 am battling away just as they had, and with as much passion as they did when they started their careers and their “now” partners were in grade school.
        Remember, we all bring something to the table………
        25 yrs. of an “A” ride at Disney!!

  19. Amy Griffith Says:

    I have been a volunteer fire fighter for 6 years now and have been w/ 2 volunteer departments. Neither of which every really tired to show me the ropes . I have had to take it upon myself to go out and learn what I know on my own. I don’t think that’s right … I love being a fire fighter and have leaned from training w/ other stations how great being a team can be and when you have the right group of people backing you up and showing you the right way can make the difference in a new fire fighter. I was looked down a pond at my first station because I was so motivate to learn and learn the job the right way . At my first station with in the first year I had move from no body to being in charge of the trucks … seeing that they were checked off and making sure everything was working they way it should. But due to another member of that same station running their mouth and saying things about me that weren’t true I lost my position over the trucks. I have always been self motivated and I have always wanted to help others. When I lost my position due to another person not speaking to truth and finding out that everyone at my station was believing them over me I had no choice but to move on from that station. I was not going to let them bring me down with them. When I found a new volunteer station and joined them I started running into the same problems again. If you were not a part the “good ol Boys” team they didn’t want you nor did they take the time to see that you were trained right.

    After 6 years I find myself wondering is this what its like being w/ a volunteer department . Can this change and if so how?? I have taken it upon myself to get trained and get my FF I & II cert and to get my EMT-Basic through a local community college. Now only if I could find a department that wants me … wants someone that is willing to learn more … someone that isn’t afraid of hard work and training. I love learning and I love help others. I have made my mind up back when I was with my first department that I will not let anyone bring me down. This article is so true and I am grateful. that you took the time to write it and post it.

  20. Rick Haas Says:

    The key here, is to not let the mental poison effect you. No matter where you work yes even in our department there is going to be the nay sayers… you work too hard… drill must be over at 4:30 its shorts time… when are we going to shop for dinner?… for us in the Truck-Rescue realm, there is literally no time to not train!!! we have so many tools and so many new rescue technologies that there is straight up not enough time in the day to get EVERYTHING mastered, seismic sensors ??? really on a rescue truck.. search cameras, concrete cutting equipment, thats not even mentioning OSHA mandated training. Its the Captains job to push through this even when it is unpopular, or particularly when its unpopular. As a 10 year Captain I have had some of these poison spewers have a round table discussion with me at a two company house to tell me why I am wrong and why I do what I do. One of our 30 somethings actually had made a list to make sure he didn’t miss anything. His major accusation was “everything you do, you do to make yourself look better” I would agree with part of that statement, Everything I do is to make US better. But when you are entitled you don’t need to justify yourself. The bottom line, as the Captain, Set the tone… work hard… Train Hard… Bleed Less !!!

  21. Jack Wilson Says:


  22. myredsandals Says:

    My son is a Lt/firefighter/paramedic and he sent me this article. So well written! As a member of the public you serve, I would hope that every person serving in the fire department wants to rise above the negative and counterproductive chatter being bantered about by the 10%’ers, and instead, be the best they can be… to serve with honor and distinction. My life and the lives of my loved ones – and potentially, your life – depends on it.

  23. ProEMSguy Says:

    Ryan, I’m glad to see you have a can-do, progressive attitude at your department. It’s refreshing to read. I hope your attitude is contagious.

    One suggestion, however: I wish EMS was as big a priority. Even here, in your post, all of the specific points you made were fire operations related. All of your pictures feature your coworkers working a fire. Contrary to that emphasis, EMS calls make up the vast majority of your call volume. The most likely time this year that your knowledge, skill, and training will make a true difference in someone’s life is on the scene of a critical medical call. Skill, study, and practice make just as much a difference in this arena as on the scene of a fire. EMS is not as glorious as fire fighting, and it’s certainly not the job many people intended to do when they are hired on with a fire agency. This, however, is where your can-do, drive for excellence attitude matters most. I would hope that every one of your co-workers have a drive to become IV masters, that your house practices working a cardiac arrest every week, that your medics practice intubations every day. That everyone spends their twilight hours reading. Why not?

    I’m not disagreeing with any of your points, training for a fire is vitally important. It is certainly not a place I would want to mess up in. I would just hope you are thinking about the EMS side of things too.

  24. Makinthepush Says:

    Great job Ryan. Over the past two years as I have traveled around the country teaching, this has been the most consistent issue facing nearly every department. I find it disgusting.

  25. jim Lopez Says:

    I agree new firefighters on job should be encouraged and mentored. I think it should be a structured skill level accomplishments step by step through your early years on the job. However, as you state in your article in regards to a training tempo, that’s where I challenge you to recognize the fact that you have an opinion of the ‘senior’ firefighters and that is they want to remain in the so called ‘recliner’ and not train. Oh and training on a Sunday? ‘What a concept?’ I think you should consider that the fire service is made up of multiple stages of career levels and abilities. We are not all physically perfect, living with good genes and running marathons on are weekends. We are made up of the usual aliments, body shapes, medical experiences of the general public we protect. While new young firefighters come on the job eager youthful fearless and in the best physical fitness they’ll ever be in there career. Sure it’s easy to come on the job work for three or five years take a test get promoted then scoff at the older firefighters because they are reluctant to do a basic firefighter hose drill on a Sunday morning! I’m open to new techniques to make my job better, but basic firefighting is just that basic. Because a new firefighter comes on the job does not equate to the senior firefighters as lacking in training. If you feel lost on an aspect of being a firefighter and new firefighters come on your job then get the knowledge you need to make sure you got your stuff togather. Don’t drag out the companies for a dog and pony show to build your inaccuracies back to the skill level of proficiency you should already have. I take academy classes. I read, yes its true a senior guy reads. And yes on fire subjects. I can’t speak for every senior firefighters out there but this one will have your back. So by all means train on. But don’t look down on me because I’m not following behind waging my tail on every dreamed up ladder climb, mask drill, rope/knots, and amazing wisdom you watched on youtube. Seriously, ask us once in a while about training. You might be surprised what we think.

    • Sir,

      I appreciate you taking the time to drop in and leave your opinion on this topic. However I think you may have misread or taken many of these points that are made in the article out of context. I just want to clear a few of the points up that you mentioned. You bring up the senior firefighters as if I was writing this about the senior guys in the fire service, which is simply not true. No where do I mention firefighters of many years on or old age, it does address any and all firefighters that have someone younger than them working on their crew. That leaves a wide variety of situations and scenarios, and the reason I did this is because everyone contributes as a mentor differently. The 5 year guy might be the one that is the non stop energy always getting the hands on work covered with the new guy, whereas on the same crew the 25 year driver might be the guy that provides wise mentorship to the new guy about his performance, his assignments, what to expect, etc. I specifically wrote this in that fashion because I understand that every firefighter is a little bit different, physically, mentally, and where they are in their careers. I can assure you I do not do things the same way I did as a brand new guy on this job, that’s just how it goes as things start to hurt and mobility isn’t the same as it used to be. I just want to make sure you know that this isn’t about seniority, this is about mentalities.

      When you state “Training on a Sunday, what a concept”, that is misquoted from my article. All I said about Sunday was, if you come into work and your hose lines are a complete mess, then the winter weather or day of the week should NOT prevent us from taking the 5 minutes it takes to pull the sloppy line and reload it. This is a simple, non physically taxing way to set a good example for everyone.

      You mention how “it is easy to come on the job, work three or five years and then promote while scoffing at the senior guys”. This comment probably bothers me the most because it is the exact opposite of who I am. I am a firefighter, still doing the grunt work, and have not worked a day in the last 10 years in any seat but that, and honestly I am not interested in leaving that seat anytime soon either. I love to be in the working position and gaining as much hands on experience as possible. Again, I did not mention anything about training on Sunday morning!

      I tried to keep an open mind about your opinion regarding not bringing a company out to train just because one member of the crew is not up to the level of proficiency. However, I just cannot understand how you are supposed to bring that member up to par without the proper training? Where is he supposed to get that knowledge? Because something you and I both agree on is it cannot be obtained from the internet or a book?

      The last part where you mention my “amazing wisdom from you tube” and to “try asking a senior guy about training”. I am a major advocate and publicly bring it up all the time on this website that being an “internet firefighter” is a very dangerous thing to become. I encourage guys all the time to take everything with a grain of salt and whenever you find a good idea in a book or on the internet, you must go back to your own job and try it. Ideas should come from books/you tube, but experience or wisdom should never come from anything but, alarms, training, and mentorship from you senior members.

      I have spent a great deal of my career talking to some of the most senior and experienced mentors on this job, I value their input and although it may surprise you, almost all of the mentality that I am talking about in this article, is based off the teachings of my early career mentors who were real good senior men. As you stated there is many different types of firefighters, which I agree, there is also many different types of senior firefighters on the job as well. The ones that taught me this had 30 plus years on and are highly respected members. I did not take their teachings for granted. I am glad you took the time to leave your feedback, but I think much of the content that did not sit well with you was taken out of context and not how I actually presented it. Either way it makes for a great discussion, and we cover some important points that are obviously being faced in the fire service today.


      • jim Lopez Says:

        Thank you for clarification on the article. As I see it you and I are speaking the same language. I have 15 years on the job myself. Assigned to an Engine company. I would like to mention that my generalized comments about wisdom gained by youtube wasn’t necessary pointed at you but some I’ve encountered on the job during classes. Your article does stir the debate which makes for good communication and in turn makes the progression to change in the fire service. Thanks for a good read. Be safe out there bro.

  26. Bob Glade Says:

    Excellent article.

  27. ynot Says:

    There is nothing new under the sun as the good book says. This is and has been and endless cycle and ongoing discussion. Firefighter are as resistant to change as we are in our ability to adapt. Every generation thinks they can do it better or have done it simpler.

  28. ynot Says:

    Ohh and chill out before you burn out and you just might live long enough for some young highly educated recruit to walk in one day and complain about you.

  29. John Says:

    Great article Ryan, and I know how hard it is to keep those frustrations inside. You and your company keep on doing what you’re doing, you will win some converts and to hell with those who want to complain. Eventually, you and some of your comrades will promote, and spread your attitude to a wider audience.

    As for one of the previous commenters stating that senior guys don’t need to be out working on the basics anymore, I heartily disagree. Some of the worst mistakes I’ve seen on both the fire ground and the drill ground have been senior members who went out with the attitude of “I’ve done this enough, I don’t need practice” and then tie the line in a knot, fail to chock a door, or throw the ladder to the wrong spot. Professional sports teams and athletes practice every day, and they are not responsible for saving lives.

  30. RougueCaptain Says:

    This hits home for me as I am to a true rougue. My true passion has always been firefighter training and keeping the crews safe. Unfortunately, after reading this great article I was able to relate to Ryan. I come from a fairly large department where about 35% of my department are considered “the haters”. These are the guys that we all can all relate to. As one the training facilitators I am constantly get bashed by “the haters” for doing what is right. It’s hard to drive forward when all you hear from these 35% is “the only reason why he’s doing this is because he wants the next promotion and it’s all about him”. Because of my true passion for the craft, these comments honestly take the wind out of my sail but articles like this help me get back on my feet, brush the dirt off my body and knees and move forward. This article is epic and I have forwarded it to my entire department. I want to personally thank Ryan for lifting my spirit! Stay safe Brother!

  31. Trevor Says:

    Great stuff bro

  32. Mindy Thompson Says:

    Interesting – Thanks for sharing. My husband and I can take this and relate it to every profession we have ever been in. Im a teacher and this happens in every school I ‘ve ever worked in (but I try to stay focused, motivated and positive). So thanks.

  33. Mike Says:

    You guys kill me. This job we do is a non stop learning adventure. The problem isn’t the guys that don’t want to train, its YOU. I think its great that you want to further your training, but your no better then they are. let me explain. You are fighting mad about not training 20 hours a day, they are fighting mad about not getting 20 hours of recliner time. Reading most of the articles and comments, 90% are FF, not company officers, Batt Chiefs etc.. If your apart of the training unit, then there isn’t any fight. You set the training standards. If your a FF on a company, and your an eager, always wanting to train (Im not bashing that, but I don’t want to train 4 hours a day.. After 20 years of ladder Ops, I think they got it already) but your pushing your wants off on others, that clearly don’t have the same wants. At the end of the day, we are grunts, minions, the little man.. We don’t make the daily plan, we simply follow it.

    Speaking about station duties and equipment, well, that’s a no brainer.. If your equipment is jacked, fix it!

    As for the training, Ive seen it all… Crazed officers wanting to train 2-3 hours a shift then those that want none.. Fact of the matter is, if your department has its stuff together, then standards on monthly training should already be set, and the Training Division should be monitoring to ensure they are met. Our job is filled with type A personalities. I would suggest, take a breathe and think about how your communicating with your company. Instead of asking for them to eat a pound of your want to train all the time, pick your fights and ask them to eat a smaller percent. crawl, walk, train all day…

    I in no way think training should be overlooked, but everything in moderation. Firehouses are like everywhere else One side Radical the other side Passive.. I think the middle is a great place, personally!

    How we train, is how we work on a fire ground! Its not the quantity of training, its the quality of our training.

    • Mike,

      Thanks for dropping in, believe it or not I do like seeing the views from this side. You make it very clear that you believe that I am the problem, which is fine, I can take that. However many of your points in here are putting words in my mouth that are just simply not in the article. No where in here do I speak about 20 hours of training, or even put an hour requirement on what I think anyone else should train on. Do I think that everyone on the job that has someone below them, owes our new guys some type of training or mentorship on a regular basis? Yes I do, but that seems like a much more reasonable opinion then yours stating I am the problem with the job?? Another part that you mention, and I am not sure where you developed this statement from, but you say I am pushing “my wants” off on my fire company and that they do no want or appreciate it. Again, I know that each of the men on my company would tell you that we all believe in these same principles of working hard with our new guys that constantly rotate through, and also believe in strong mentoring. We do not argue or fight about the topic of training ever, if anything, this would be the point that you and I would agree on, we believe strongly in quality of training. Not quantity,monthly checkoffs, or whatever. Realistic, quality, interesting training.

      Really, the only requests in this article seemed to be reasonable things. The wording may have been stronger with more emotion but they still said the following things. Set a good example for the guy that is newer then you, not speaking to senior guys, but everyone on the job that has someone newer then themselves. If you decide you do not want to set good examples, then the other request was, please keep it to yourself and do not try to convince the younger firefighters to become a part of that bad example, and to please not fill their heads with trash talk all day about companies that are trying to set good examples for them. It does nothing for them to help their careers.

      I agree that we will always have different types of firefighters, (passive, middle, radical), but I think it is hard for you to define me and the same goes for myself to try and define you as a firefighter over comments on the internet. It just isn’t that easy, and obviously every departments culture will change your viewpoints on what “radical” or in the “middle” even means.

      Sorry it took me a while to get a response up for your comment. I took a breathe, as you recommended, and reread the article to make sure I was reading your comment correctly and understanding your points. I appreciate good discussion, and some of the greatest mentoring points in the fire service come from two firefighters that don’t agree on something.


  34. Ric Jorge Says:

    Great article Ryan! I love to hear passion for the job, this is a fight worth fighting. People can talk smack all they want, but you can not be knocked off a position of integrity. Stay the course brother, lions do not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep … we eat them!
    Stay ole and stay strong,

  35. jim Lopez Says:

    Amen. Now it’s the whiz bang youtube generation. So ready to lead us after 5 years on the job! Oh please tells us your five years of extensive experience and training. I work with 3 guys on an Engine company with a combined experience of 45 years. Now a five year new promoted guy says we won’t change? Bahahahahahahaha. I say get some experience and in 10 years cone see me. I read some of the gun ho comments about this article and I feel like it’s a bunch of young bucks who want change on the job with only one year on the job!

  36. Jay Says:

    Good article, It is great anytime people view our profession as a craft to be practiced an perfected. The fore servoce however will always surprise you no matter what to you may think will happen.
    Maybe you should consider that some of the older firemen know that no matter what they say or do some lessons simply have to be experienced. As a new guy you may not yet have done CPR on a small dying child, witnessed the sadness of the elderly with no one to care for them but your engine company, wittnessed the joy of a fmaily caring for its dying, or been afraid on an interior attack searching for a victim you know may already be dead, The old guy has.
    No amount of pretend drilling will make up for these experiences. The Old guys already know, the job is the best ride ever and most wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else, however they also know that after many years of responding to the call, the job has a way of beating both body and mind down.
    The new guys are a different generation they take everything so self centered and personal. No the world is not about you and the old guy in the recliner probably doesn’t care one bit about what your doing, guess what he probably already has done it, multiple times, and when the bell rings will do it again in perfect proficiency. This article titled “mental poison” is in itself is the same thing. But don’t worry us “old guys” read it and say (this banter comes from a lack of experience) the team is the most important thing and it includes both young/new/and old guys.
    I look forward to flavor and outlook of your post when you and the “new guys” have 25+ years in.

    • Sir,

      I appreciate the perspective on the last article and I love the discussion it generates on both sides of the topic. It is refreshing when someone like you responds with a well thought out comment with good points in it. I wanted to respond to a few of your points, I see you took this as an article that was bashing the old guys or senior men. I want to assure you that was not the case, and it is clear I should have clarified that more. In fact almost of this teaching about needing strong mentors in the fire service was taught to me by the senior guys I work with. They are great examples of senior men with lots of time on this job, and are still running out of the busiest houses. I have learned so much from them and try to be a 1/4 of what they are and have taught. The lessons from bad calls that you bring up are great points, that I have experienced as well, I am not trying to act like a senior 25 year guy by any means ( I am only half way there), I am just saying I can relate and understand those situations and why you refer to them.

      I think in person, (not over computers) we would probably see eye to eye closer than it appears. My main point of contention for this article was not senior guys that have slowed down physically in this career or any other point relating to seniority. It has nothing to do with seniority at all. It was referring to everyone, from the 5 year guy and up who has made the choice to take the time and energy to fill many of our new guys heads up with trash talk about trying to be a good firefighter, wasting their time on fire training, or just simply giving them very negative outlooks and creating bad reputations in their heads before they go to these different firehouses that want to train them well. Thats it. I have a great deal of respect for seniority in the fire service and what that experience means, I am just lucky enough to work with senior guys who have taught me that bitching about the job does nothing… mentoring, training and guiding people creates change. It is our/my responsibility as the guy in the middle of the seniority timeline to step up and pass on what the senior guys have taught us, and to provide quality hands on training for the new guys. Hope that clears up some of my points for you.

      Again, thanks for your comment.
      Take Care

  37. LJM Says:

    All I have to say is thank you!! I have been down a hell of a road with this exact situation! It almost broke my spirit!! and Now I have made a promise to myself that I will never let it almost break me again. I would rather work at mcdonalds then sell my soul!! this was truly motivational. It is encouraging to know I am not alone!

  38. Tob Says:

    You nailed it with “insecurities”
    It is unfortunate that the citizens that pay their salaries, AND their fellow so called brothers, will have to be there on the day fate.. exposes the lie they have been telling themselves, in the form of poor public service, that directly affects on their outcome, due to the lack of training/ effort. Which also directly affects safety of the crew.
    “The more effort we give.. the less doubt we will have”
    Those that do not follow this will constantly be haunted by their consciousness..
    Don’t lose the passion that inspires others..

  39. Brian Says:

    Well said Ryan! We need more people to bring your type of thinking forward.
    Good job!

  40. Terry Says:

    I appreciate your point of view and respect your opinions. But I also see a mental poisoning going on as well. And it is also being taught to some of the newer folks. There is a thought out there that if you don’t work at X station you are lazy and burned out not amounting to anything for the job. Just because someone works at a slower station does not mean they are lazy and not willing to train. The station I work at is a program station that takes care of the SCBAs and O2. And we take great pride in making sure that the packs that come into out station are in top notch working order before being sent back out to the line. We can be very busy doing fit tests repairing packs and such. Things that go unrecognized by most of the people on the line.

    We get people that come into out station with a chip on their shoulder because they were shipped in there for the day. We treat them with respect and dignity and don’t run them down because they work at station X. Some of these folks will do nothing to help us out such as fill air or O2 bottle. I understand that they can’t repair packs because they aren’t trained but they could sit with us and learn something new. We have had guys come in and sit in another room on Facebook Twitter Youtube or what ever and then complain because it is so slow. I have actually had to clean around officers.

    I have worked at stations on hire backs or trades and been treated awful because I wasn’t one of them. We never treat anyone that way at our station. We all belong to the same department no matter what station you work at. Are there some lazy guys out there that don’t want to do anything? You bet. You won’t find that at mine. My officer will go out and train at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t ask for a better crew.

    We had a crew come up to get new masks because theirs were damaged in a fire. They were from one of the busy stations. One of the crew members treated us with contempt and disrespect just because we were doing our job. And that job was ensuring that all the crew members masks were safe and working properly. We should not only train and perform the duties of being a firefighter but we should also ensure that our equipment is in tip top shape. Not only should our axes be sharpened and halyards tied correctly, our gear should be clean and free from defect. Take a look at your packs next time you go to work and you will see what I mean. Those things are your life line. Literally.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that there are all kinds of mental poisoning going on out there but the big one I see is disrespect. And that is being bred to the younger crew members by the folks at the busy stations.

    Thanks for reading,

    • Terry,
      Thanks for reading, and taking the time to form a thought out response. As I have said in previous comments above, I appreciate point of views that are different then mine, and think they provide good insight when someone takes the time to explain their reasoning instead of just coming on here and immediately taking stuff out of context of the article.

      I am glad to here that we have the same viewpoint in taking pride in our work, Whether we are at a slow station or a busy station earning our paychecks still has to be done, and there is a variety of ways we do this.

      Your example of mental poison stemming from disrespect is no doubt a problem. It goes back to some of my original article, simply stating that if someone does not want to bring productive mentoring or training to younger members, then they should keep the trash talking opinions to themselves. In many ways we are talking about the same thing, I assure you this is not a slow station vs busy station rant, and you will definitely never hear me telling a new guy that there is only one station they should try and be at. Here is my viewpoint on that. I started my career on a slow company, especially in the terms of what a 1 year on the job guy would want. With that said, I made the best of it and tried to do my part to make it the best firehouse possible. Because I was working with other guys that had similar mindsets, we were able to create a very well disciplined, well trained, crew that had a lot of company pride. It was a great demonstration for me, especially that early in my career. It taught me that in your mind the best company in your city should be the one you work for. No matter where that is, or what the alarm load is. If you truly believe in that, it is motivating to see what a tight knit and high performing crew can be developed. This was done at that slower station, because the senior guys who were teaching us truly believed we could make a great crew anywhere you work. I have never forgotten this lesson and earlier this year shared this belief with some new guys that were just placing their bids for their first permanent station. Where I am going with this? I am just sharing with you that I do not believe in some of the examples of disrespect you are talking about and would never share this type of mentality to younger members, in fact the opposite.

      I can only speak for myself, and I think you would see, especially in a person to person conversation, that you will not find me slandering or voicing disrespect to another person on the job that has a different viewpoint them myself. We may not agree, but it doesn’t mean we can’t voice those opposite opinions in a way that ends up stirring good thought and conversation about topics that firefighters will never agree on and never have.


  41. D/C Cohoon Says:

    I’ve been in the Fire Service for more than 43 years and a chief officer for nearly half the time and I’d love to work for this guy.

    You should have been in my “Leadership Through Enthusiasm” seminar at FDIC!

  42. Brendan Dunn Says:

    This should be posted in every firehouse in the world. It’s the same all over, and it’s because of these people you so adequately describe that the fire service is suffering and failing.

  43. anchorpoint1 Says:

    There is no way in hell I’m reading all your comments. But rest assured I perused them. I am more motivated by your comments. Not the bitterness, which is usually the source of my better articles (oddly enough). The truth hurts. “Those guys who just do the job” do poison the guys who “Want to do good and make us look good”. I have backed off on the training on my company/group because of the officer across the floor. That will end soon, we are our own company. Thank you and “Stay angry my friend”

  44. GaryLane Says:

    Had to read this again… Yep… Still awesome.

    Some of the comments…not so much…
    Be proud of working with a team that wants to be good at their job. Mediocrity is bullshit.

    “Do you know the hallmark of a second rater? It’s resentment of another man’s achievement. Those touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone’s work prove greater than their own – they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal – for a mind to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes,thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them – while you’d give a year of my life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them. They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors. They don’t know that that dream is the infallible proof of mediocrity, because that sort of world is what the man of achievement would not be able to bear. They have no way of knowing what he feels when surrounded by inferiors – hatred? no, not hatred, but boredom – the terrible, hopeless, draining, paralyzing boredom. Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don’t respect? Have you ever felt the longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?”
    Any Rand, Atlas Shrugged

  45. nick Says:

    For all you “old timers” out there. There is nothing more inspiring to a young FF than a guy that has kept the same passion and commitment to the job for decades. I am impressed the most by a 20+ year vet that will not let a bad hose load slip or does not accept anything less than perfection. The vets have the power to inspire the most with good habits and positive attitudes. Don’t feel threatened by young excitement… help it grow in a positive way!

    When the veteran gets complacent and starts to “ride out” the career is when the poison builds. This is especially sad to see when guys contributes great things for 15 years than become toxic toward the end of their career.

    I don’t know how, but keeping the passion and positive attitude is the key.

  46. Brian Says:

    I am the administrator of my departments academy and between myself and the instructors, we preach staying away from mr. Miserable everyday and always remember why you became a Firefighter to begin with. Carpe Diem

  47. Russell Parson Says:

    Right on! Plan on posting in my house!

  48. Perry L. Says:

    I posted before I read all of the comments. I do have to say, while you say in your replies that this is not pointed at the senior members of our great job, the sentiment seems to be there and because you have published this without that correction it will continue to be viewed as such. I would encourage you to make sure, publicly,not just here in the comments section, that this is not the direction you wanted this to be taken. Otherwise all it would appear on the surface is to be “hostile” and “pot stirring” which I know is not your intention.
    Not bad for an “old guy” hey……

  49. Steffen Says:

    thank you for your encouraging words! It is good to know there are others out there with the same mindset and motivation…-around the world!
    I am a firefighter from Germany and loved reading your post and all the comments!
    Keep up the good work!

  50. E3 Says:

    Reblogged this on Firefighter and commented:
    Excellent read. We have the best job in the world. Never let anyone steal your dream!

  51. Obie Says:

    Thank you for all you do for this job.

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