“Tradition is an explanation for acting without thinking” Grace McGarvie

The fire service is heavy on tradition, rightfully so. The problem is when the tradition interferes with your ability to take care of yourself and your family. “Traditionally” it was unheard of for a public servant to be sued. Everyone can get sued. Being sued for actions taken in performance of your duties is becoming increasingly popular. These lawsuits can be personal in nature and the organization can decide if they will pay for your representation or not. In my state, my organization can decide if a firefighter was “acting within the scope of their office or employment”. If the answer is yes the organization has to handle the lawsuit. How hard would it be for them to find something you did to be “outside” of your employment if they wanted to?

It used to be acceptable to die young and leave a grieving family behind. If you think your life insurance will pay up the day after notification of your death, think again. Check the list of exclusions and see if your line of work falls under their definition of “dangerous activity”. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not paying money. Tradition is not going to pay your mortgage when you are out injured or deceased.

Fire has not changed since the beginning of firefighting. What burns definitely has. Fires used to be only all natural materials burning, now plastic is everywhere. The heat of combustion of plastics items are double that of the same things made out of wood. I won’t get started on gases that are released. Why would you risk inhaling that crap? Want to look salty? Maybe you want to be the guy on the news with “smoke inhalation” that’s a traditional thing, just like falling off the rear step of fire apparatus, right?

I guess the thesis of this post would be this “Know what you are doing and why you are doing it”. “But it’s Tradition” does not make a strong argument against NFPA, Cancer,state/federal laws, and loss of income/work.

Tradition is what keeps the fire service a close knit community and I promise to get to the great traditions later.

But for now…Think, Think, Think


  • pfd24 says:

    tradition isnt what kills people, its poor tatics that does.

  • vfdff says:

    Very well written article, the sad part is a lot of what is being done is by the younger guys in some departments, they hear the stories from the older guys that have been around for years and want to be just like them, but if you step back and look and not just listen to them, you will notice something, there choices were not always the right ones. There is nothing wrong with TRADITION dont get me wrong, but with that being said, COMMON SENSE and TACTICS should play a big part in what we do. Just a thought. EGH

  • blancety says:

    I have to agree with PFD to some extent…..

    We blame a lot on tradition, but in the end I think that it become sthe scape goat for bad decisions and an inability to change. I agree 100% with your areas of concern in this topic, just don’t agree that tradition is the root cause.

    Tradition is who we are, where we came from, why we exist……like the Colors of a Military Unit, tradition tells the world what we have survived to become the Department, or company, or service we are.

    Tradition also should dictate that we learn from our mistakes and those that have gone before us….

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Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at

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