Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dear Fire Wife, 2

Taken from the comments section of the original post - which can be found here.

Hi Carrie,

My name is Briana and I googled Firefighters Wife and your blog popped up. The reason I did that is because my boyfriend of 3+ years is considering a career in firefighting and I wanted to get a little info about what that might be like for me. Any advice/info would be much appreciated. Thanks so much.


Dear Briana,

After being married to a fire fighter for over 13 years, the best advice I can give you is to BE FLEXIBLE! As you must already know, a fire fighter's schedule is a unique one, not a "regular" 9 - 5 job like everyone else. So, the family of a fire fighter needs to be understanding in regards to his/her work schedule. Which means, abandoning all pre-conceived notions of weekends and always having him/her home for holidays.

I know, sounds rough right?

But really it's not. I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said how lucky I was to have my husband home during the week. He gets to participate in school activities with the kids that not many other working parents can. Although he misses the occasional birthday and Halloween, he makes up for it by hosting amazing fire station visits for our children and their friends.

Who else can say that about their dad?

As a spouse, I've spent numerous evenings visiting him on shift at the fire station. Making meals or just hanging out in between calls is a way you can stay connected with your fire fighter during those long shifts.

And get to know the other fire fighter's wives and families too. Your best support when something happens is one another. And the "family" that is formed by having a loved one in the fire service cannot be compared to any other working environment. It is a special bond that will last a lifetime.


Monday, October 26, 2009

You Know You're a Fire Fighter's Wife If...

"The Real Firefighters of SC"

You Know You're a Firefighter's Wife If:

You know what IFSTA, IAFF, SCBA, WSFTA, and ARFF stand for.

Your Husband's wardrobe looks like this: non-descript bottoms paired with any navy blue shirt/sweatshirt with a fire department logo on it.

Your Husband's haircut is "nice and tight." So are his buns.

You've eaten more gas-producing foods in a 24 hour period than any sane woman should (unless she's a fire fighter).

You know the difference between a police siren and a fire siren.

Your kids think the fire station is "Daddy's house."

You've received more dalmation-themed collectibles than you thought humanly possible.

You know that all of your smoke detectors work.

Your Husband will not let you near the BBQ.

You can make 4 dozen cookies without a recipe in 1.5 hours flat and have them delivered asap.

You know that you always have a team of highly-trained ems professionals at the ready (you know, in case a baby falls down the stairs or something).

You know that it is faster and waaaay better to take the ambulance to the hospital (NEVER go it solo, and actually WAIT in the waiting room!).

Your single friends are always aksing "are there any single firemen at Hubby's work?"

Your children can make good use of vaccuum hoses and rubber gloves.

Everybody knows a fire fighter, and will asume that you know them too.

You find it hard to sleep when your Hubby is at work.

You get severly angry when people don't pull over for firetrucks and ambulances.

You've held more birthdays at the fire station than should be allowed.

You get to listen to stories about fires, mva's and in my case, sprinkler systems.

You've seen Backdraft 40 million times and Ladder 49 10 million (but who can get sick of staring at Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta?)

You've had some of the best holiday meals at the fire station.

You've lost all sense of what a "weekend" really is due to your husband's crazy schedule.

Your husband gets to go on field trips & preschool once in a while.

All of the teachers want your husband to "demonstrate" his skills for the class (yeah, right she just wants to see him in his bunker gear).

You feel like the luckiest girl alive when he comes home off shift and sends your heart a-flutter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dear Fire Wife

I am pleased to share the first letter in the "Dear Fire Wife" series. If you have a question, comment, or just want to share a story - please feel free to email me and I'll post your letter and my response (if applicable) here.


My name is Stacy*, and I'm from "Somewhere in the United States*." I came across your blog one day while I was searching for websites for fire fighter girlfriends, fiances and/or wives, I read through one of the posts and was hooked.

My boyfriend is a full-time fire fighter for the city of *****, and I'd like to ask you a couple questions.

I'm new to the fire department world, sort of. I am a 911 dispatcher, and I am the daughter of a sheriffs deputy so I'm used to odd hours, missed holidays, cold dinners etc., but only as a daughter. As a partner, do you ever get used to it? How do you handle it? I have two young sons that he has taken in as his own, how to I explain to them when Dad has to go back to work, or if they hear something is wrong with a firefighter and we don't know who or what is the matter? How do I handle it if that happens?

Another issue that has been raised, is they just hired a female who is getting put on his crew, I know he loves me and it isn't the jealousy side so much that gets to me... It is would she be as strong as the guys in the department? Is she going to be able to help the love of my life if he needs it, or he going to have to rely on a 2nd wave of crew to come in and help? I know these aren't questions you would be able to answer really, I don't know if your husband has any females on his department or not, but in your opinion, do you think there is way to come over this fear short of waiting for it to happen and see how she does?

I understand if you are busy, it sounds like you have your hands full, I was just hoping to get another opinion on how to start getting used to being a firefighter's wife.

Thanks so much,


*names, locations changed for anonymity

Dear Stacy,

Thank you for your questions.

As far as "getting used to" the crazy schedule, missed holidays and family gatherings, I don't think that I so much as got used to it, as I accepted this as our way of life. My husband has been involved in the fire service for as long as we've been married, longer actually. Before he was hired full-time, nearly 9 years ago, he worked as a "part paid" as well as his full-time job as a general contractor. He was the President of the Firefighters Association on top of this, so you can imagine how often he was really, physically home with us.

During that time, our boys (who are 12 and 11 years old now) were very little, so I understand what you are going through. I had come from a family of firefighters, and so had my husband - so explaining that to our children was easy, it is in our blood. Living in a small town, where the firestation was just down the street also aided in the understanding that the boys got at an early age as to what and where daddy did his "fireman" work. Having him come to their preschools also benefited them and my husband was never shy about showing up and doing fire prevention education for their classes.

It's important, in my opinion, not to hide the seriousness of the job from young children, but not to glorify it either. Being a 911 dispatcher, I'm sure you understand this. Taking them to the firestation, bringing dinner or treats, keeping them in close contact while daddy is gone, reminding them that although he misses some birthdays, it is pretty cool to have a daddy who gets to be home on his days off when other dads are working. These are all small things that can help ease the distance when he is on shift. We still visit my husband at the firestation - even though the boys are older they still love to climb on the firetrucks and snoop around in the station. And the support he feels from us coming out there to spend time with him is priceless.

We stay involved in the family activities too. Even though our department is small (being at an airport) there are a lot of things that we can participate in as a family. This teaches the kids the importance of dad's work, as well as connects them to the children of other firefighters. They know that their "firefighter family" is always there for them, no matter what.

As far as the female co-worker is concerned, you probably don't need to worry. All firefighters have to pass rigorous physical agility testing in order to be hired. This test is getting more and more competitive for all, especially females, as the interest in the field of firefighting increases. I understand why you'd be worried, but I assure you that she has probably had to prove herself ten times over what her co-workers have had to, because she is a female. If your partner's safety with any of his co-workers is ever in question, he should report that to his immediate supervisor, as safety on the job is imperative - as if their job isn't risky enough just by definition!

It can be hard to get used to, especially because the fire service holds a unique and strong bond unlike any other working environment, but I'm sure you're going to be just fine, as will your family. The fact that you are already thinking of how you can support and understand your firefighter tells me that you're probably ahead of the game.

All in all, staying connected with your partner is probably the best thing you can do for you and your family when it comes to your new life in the fire service. Letting him decompress after a busy or especially tragic shift, letting him talk it out and listening are all things you can do to be there for him. In turn, it is important that you have support too, because sometimes the stress of being married to a firefighter can be hard on the support person. My family is understanding and flexible when it comes to Brett's work schedule. They are always there to help me and I don't know what we'd do without them. Because my grandfather was a Fire Chief, my dad understands...I'm pretty lucky.

I'm also good friends with the other wives and we know that we can count on one another whenever something happens. Thankfully, we've only been called upon to support each other for the births of babies - but we all know in the back of our minds, when we kiss our husbands goodbye before a shift, that he's going off to a dangerous job. So we cherish each moment, every day, and try to stay positive.

Best of luck to you! You're going to be a great "Fire Wife."


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Raising a Firefighter

Some things hit so close to home you can feel them, taste them, see how they would affect your life reflected in the stories you read about others who have gone through it. Remembering September 11, 2001, is like that for me. If only for a moment, I can see my husband running up stairs with other firefighters while everyone else is running down. I can hear the confusion in the voices of the dispatchers, ems personnel, officials and journalists as they realize that before their very eyes, death has taken more souls in an instant than they ever thought possible. I can feel the emptiness left after a phone call to the widow of a firefighter leaves her to gaze at her fatherless children and wonder how she is ever going to tell them that Daddy isn't coming home after his shift today, ever.

I am in awe of the thousands of tributes and projects dedicated to honoring and remembering the heroes and victims of the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and Flight 93, projects like dc's 2,996, which has already reached it's goal of having one blogger write a tribute for each of the victims lost in our nation's worst terrorist attack. The project is already working on assigning a 2nd wave of bloggers, worldwide, to write tributes. I invite you to visit this site to read amazing stories of the people who were lost on that day, to put faces and real lives to the names, to remind yourself that we are all in this boat together, and without one another, we are simply alone.

I longed to be able to find the strength to participate in the 2,996 project, but it is just too hard for me. Perhaps because my husband is a firefighter, at an airport. Perhaps because ever since he could say the word "firetruck" my oldest son has been obsessed with all things firefighter.

He watches every move his father makes, taking mental notes for the pretend inferno he will conquer as soon as he gets home and dons his father's old bunker gear and helmet, in the hot summer sun.

He has been a firefighter for Halloween 4 times! And shows no sign of wanting to be anything but.

He wants to save all his money to buy child-size bunker gear (since Daddy's is a bit big and cumbersome). It is $300.00, but he's on a mission. I have no idea why they even make bunker gear to fit a 9-year-old.

His brother and sister delightfully oblige his firefighter escapades with the willingness of little clones, obeying his every order just as if he were their Chief. One is the siren, one is the trapped person in the building, McRae saves the day.

Perhaps because we have a family history rich in Firefighters, it is no surprise that my son wants to follow in these footsteps, those of my grandfather, Brett's grandfather, Brett's father and my uncle. Perhaps his love of the profession will wane over the years and he will forget the days he spent drilling Daddy on how smoke turns into fire, or how you vent a roof. Perhaps he will chose a "safer" line of work. Somehow, I think not. It is undeniable right now, and for now, that's okay.

It is okay because although there are tremendous risks associated with being a firefighter, there are unimaginable rewards.

Running into a burning building to save a life when everyone else is running out is just one of them, and I will never forget.

In my life, it isn't possible to forget what happened on September 11, 2001, as I look into my children's eyes when they ask me "Will a plane ever crash at Daddy's work?". I wish that I could tell them "no," but I can't.

*Originally posted on Stop Screaming I'm Driving! - September, 2006

The View From My Frontline

The tell-tale sound of the fire engine roars down the otherwise quiet street below our neighborhood, on its way somewhere.

I don't think a thing about it.

A few minutes later, just when the first siren is fading, another blast from another engine. And another, followed by more sirens from what I've come to know by sound, are smaller command vehicles and police cars.

"There's something wrong," I think.

More sirens pass. It takes a long time for their sounds not to be heard so I know that they are going far.

A normal person probably wouldn't give these noises a second thought. A normal person would carry on with their day, corralling kids, folding laundry, preparing lunch.

But the wife of a firefighter doesn't do this.

Brett doesn't work for our local district, although he did for some time before he was hired as a full-time firefighter at the airport. But these men and women are still, as all who are involved with the fire service know, family to us.

I called him at work to see if he could find out what was wrong.

The "Oh" of his response was telling enough.

Head-on MVA, 3 or more vehicles involved, dumptruck on fire, and on it's side, one red (death), immediate response requested, caller states that this is "really, really bad."

For a split second, I am grateful that my husband is tucked into his airport firestation busy doing nothing more dangerous than waxing the bay floors. Although mayhem can come anytime.

Then he says the names of the firefighters responding to the call, all people we know. One of them, the son of a firefighter who used to work with Brett. I still think of him as a teenager and cannot imagine the storm he is about to witness on the highway.

Then it starts snowing, and I think, "Great, now they (the responders) have to put out the fire in the snow, and help the injured in the snow, and direct traffic in the snow, and see what nobody wants to see in the snow."

Being married to a firefighter is like this, it just is. I can't hear a siren without thinking about where it's going. I can't see an image of a firefighter without thinking of my husband. I can't help but worry every time he leaves for shift that something bad will happen.

All I can do is hope that he, and others, make it through whatever disaster they bear witness to without many scars, inside or out.

The Fireman's Son

I was raised in a small town and my kids are being raised in that same small town.

One of the benefits to being raised in a small town is that you attend school with the same group of kids from kindergarten until you graduate high school and move out into the great big world.

This could be good or bad, depending on your social standing or if you were the kid who picked his nose constantly in the 2nd grade and still had that reputation as a high school senior.

I don't remember what year it happened, but there was a fire at the home of one of my classmates. Nobody was hurt, physically, and the home was rebuilt and life resumed it's lazy pace in our small town. But of course, the fire story never really was extinguished because the boy's father was . . . a fireman.

There is nothing worse than a fireman's house catching on fire - a fire started by a coffee pot that was left on, by the fireman. Imagine the humiliation when the fire engine, aid units and tankers showed up to put out the blazing fire at the home of one of their own. Imagine the joking that followed at the firestation, the teasing, the razzing.

If you can't imagine this scenario, just watch a few episodes of "Rescue Me," and you'll understand.

My friend was a funny guy, he was often the class clown and always made others smile. Besides being a good student, he was popular and an athlete, so the "fire" jokes didn't scar him for life, but nobody ever forgot about it. Ever.

When I came home last night and the smoke alarms were sounding, how could this happen, I was only gone for 5 minutes? I went right inside the house. An orangish glow was coming from the bathroom and my husband (THE FIREMAN) was upstairs telling the kids, "It's nothing, probably just a match mommy lit," as he was walking downstairs to investigate.

When I looked in the bathroom and saw the backpack on fire, the flames almost to the ceiling, the smoke, I grabbed the flaming towel hanging from the wall and threw it on the flames. I pushed hard on it and batted until there was no more orange, only black - everywhere.

Standing behind me, my husband reached around to grab the scoarching backpack and bring it outside - burning his hand on the melted material in the process.

I took whatever was left and followed.

We looked at each other.

We looked at our kids.

We breathed.

We looked at our bathroom.

We are so lucky.

The damage done by our little fire took a while to clean up. Soot does not want to come off of white walls easily and I suspect a painting project will be in my near future. We ran fans for hours and opened windows and joked about "lighting a candle" to get rid of the smell. We discussed the lesson learned with our kids, who remained remarkably calm through the whole ordeal.

Do not throw backpacks on top of burning candles, was one lesson.

Do not leave candles burning when fireman husband (who was tired from getting a cortizone shot in his lower back that very morning) is alone with children, was another.

Wyatt's backpack was ruined, along with his homework folder, coat and some other things that were inside. Lucky for him, he got the actual homework out before he threw his pack on the candle. But still, he was anxious to get to school and share the story with his teacher and friends.

Should make for interesting bus stop conversation don't you think?

"Hey Wyatt, remember that time you almost caught your family's bathroom on fire?"

"Heh, Heh, yeah - and your Dad is a FIREMAN!"

Fits of laughter follow and Wyatt saying, "Oh, gimmee a break - it was just a little fire and besides, my Mom put it out."

The bathroom

The backpack