As a firefighter for the city of Charleston for almost eight years, I have seen many things both good and bad. Since the departure of Chief Thomas Carr Jr. and his exceptional leadership, the department has suffered from poor leadership and influenced my own departure from the department.
Chief Carr stood up for the men and women of the CFD. He truly cared about the well-being of all members of the department, and it showed.
The job of a firefighter was an honor and a privilege to him, and that came out in how he took the bull by the horns and guided the department in the proper direction.
Since the retirement of Chief Carr, the department has been in turmoil, and the firefighters are paying for it.
Anyone who joins a fire department will tell you he does not do it for riches, notoriety, or awards.
He does it to help others. He loves the feeling of getting on the apparatus and simply going to fires and honing his craft.
If one does not have the desire to fight fires, to train, to educate himself, and to be the best at what he does, then the fire service is not the right career path.
When leadership takes those basic desires away, it is hard to find motivation to do the job, and that is why so many people are choosing to leave the department.
My personal decision to leave the Charleston Fire Department was the best move for me. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my firehouse “family” and fellow brothers.
I could not morally or ethically agree with the overly safe approach to fighting fires in the city of Charleston that the current administration has brought upon this traditional and uniquely age-enriched department.
The identity of the CFD, which has been around since 1882, is vanishing at a rapid pace. It seems as if we have forgotten all about the unique attributes that made the CFD what it is.
It is apparent that the administration is more concerned about safety vests, wheel chock placement, memos, emails, paperwork and anything else that has no bearing on our No. 1 priority: Put the fire out.
It is impossible to take all the uncertainty out of an inherently dangerous profession. Trying to be exceedingly safe is just as treacherous as being knowingly unsafe.
If you cannot accept the uncertainties, then being a firefighter is the wrong choice.
Our leadership has forgotten why we choose to do this job. It is for the citizens who are counting on us as specialists to be there during their time of need.
Manuals, books, degrees, classes and statistics do not put fires out and are nothing more than tools in a firefighter’s arsenal.
You can read all the books and attend all the classes, but if you cannot translate what you learned to the fire ground, then they serve no purpose.
It is hard work, calculated thinking and sheer fearlessness of firefighters that extinguish fires.
Firefighters are paid to put their lives in harm’s way to protect and save others. The instant they put their own safety over the ones who call for help, they become useless and ineffective.
That is not what a firefighter does or should believe in. Sadly this is why so many talented firefighters are leaving the Charleston Fire Department.