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Firefighting Culture and Our History

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Hi all,

As a fire nerd, I listen to a podcast called the Weekly Scrap (worth listening to - on Spotify and Facebook) where a US Firefighter interviews all different personalities from the US Fire services as well as some overseas guests. There's a lot of Americanisms but the overall topics (training, leadership, fire behaviour etc) translate well to any . One I listened to yesterday was by a guy called Dane Yaw from Oklahoma who runs their training school. They have quite a cool rite of passage for their recruits where they forge a link onto a chain along the wall that represents every single firefighter to serve with them, with highlights such as the first firefighters, first  black firefighters, first female Firefighters as well as firefighter deaths. Its a cool ides that is explained in this short video 

This got me thinking, are we doing enough to ingrain our own history, traditions and culture into new recruits and serving firefighters?

As a soldier I could tell you every regimental day, famous sons, the VC winners and customs of my regiment by heart alongside every other member of my regiment. It was taught to us and it bonded us as a part of the family. As cheesy as it sounds, it made you feel like you belonged and would make you fight for each other!

Do any fire services teach any sort of history to their recruits? Aside from photos on the wall at my station there isn't much to tell the history of the LFB. The only way it seems to be preserved is if you go out of your way to read books or the online groups dedicated to LFB history. The problem is that a lot of these groups are run by long retired members, once they're gone i fear a lot of the history will be gone.

Do any of you think we should be doing more to teach our history? And do any of you think it would have a real difference?

I personally feel that if you know your history and feel like you are becoming part of it (much like the army do) you will have firefighters who are more committed to the job, more passionate and as a result, get a better fire service out of it!

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Yes Rory ! I absolutely do think we should be teaching recruits about our history and traditions. I joined STC in the 90s and I was taught lots about our heritage. The new recruits now aren’t being taught enough about anything, frankly. We need to get away from Babcock asap, and get out history back. 

I attended the red plaque unveiling at kings x last week, it was an amazing experience to be involved in, and I personally take so much pride in who we are, who we follow, and what we do. 

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Thanks for the response!

I'm glad it's not just me. I was brought up with a healthy knowledge of West Mids Fire history from my old man and from having an interest in fire service history I know about the big London jobs (Kings Cross, Totley Street, Worsley Hotel etc). It's amazing how many firefighters don't know the big defining incidents from our brigades history

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10 hours ago, Rory-495 said:

The only way it seems to be preserved is if you go out of your way to read books or the online groups dedicated to LFB history. The problem is that a lot of these groups are run by long retired members, once they're gone i fear a lot of the history will be gone.

Bloody cheek!!!! I've only been gone three and a half years and already he's got me one foot in the grave!!!! 🤣

Seriously though there are two things, the USA doesn't have the rich history that European and other cultures have, they are to a degree, still 'finding their feet' so tradition is a much bigger thing in the USA than it is for us. Secondly, this is much more of a job than a vocation here in the UK. I always wanted to be a Ff, read and studied it's history and knew a lot more than many others long before I joined at 18. I am probably more like a US Firefighter In as much as I saw it as a vocation from the outset. So, I was always seen, right back to my TC days as being a bit of an 'anorak' a badge I wear with pride as it happens.  

But tradition was certainly a much bigger part of what we did and spoke about when I first joined, I think the political interference and general altering of the landscape and focus of the early 2000's changed things for a lot of people, that is when I felt the tide change and it got steadily worse. Although to be fair, as incredibly (IMO) focused on tinkering at the edges and speaking to the vocal minority that LFB (and many other public bodies) are at the moment, their Social media does also pay a lot of attention to bringing the past to life for which I applaud them, I follow the SM of many FRS, but very few dedicate as much to history as LFB do.

The other thing I'd like to add, in relation to the history groups, on Facebook for example. A lot of those who appeared to treat it just like a job and were indifferent when they served, now see themselves in retirement as irrevocably part of LFB and proudly boast of their time and association with the job.

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@Rory-495 Thank you for highlighting the podcast.  I will be checking it out.

Have a look for Pride & Ownership: A Firefighter's Love of the Job (Lasky).  It does have a few rah rah moments but there are a lot great nuggets of wisdom in there that relate directly to honouring fire history and tradition.

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I could wax lyrical about fire service culture and traditions (or lack thereof) all day long but I'll restrain myself as we're all aware of it. 

To answer specifically about the history aspect, no my service does not teach anything of the sort to new recruits. It's more important they spend a week (!) learning how to put up smoke alarms. 

"High rise bag? No, what's that?"


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@Steve I'm afraid 3 years makes you long retired! I was on standby as the senior Firefighter a few weeks back and I've done 3 years!!

I do recognise the hob vs vocation difference between the US and UK. I also feel London especially struggles becuae firefighters live so far away. Whne i was a child i grew up on my dads station ground, the firefighters went drinking after shift, my mom was friends with the other wives and I was mates with their kids. We were a close bunch and I think that makes the job more of a lifestyle. With London I feel you don't get that as much if one FF lives in Derby, another in cornwall, one in Birmingham etc. Makes linking the social and professional aspect hard to mesh together at times.

And I too am also classed as an anorak on station (happy to be so), I'll often be caught watching fire documentaries after everyone has gone to bed. But watching these programs has given me further insight  into our history and why we do things. Programs like this one on YouTube, Rescue Smoke Eaters(which I originally watched as a very young kid) really help visualise how far we have come and gives an understanding of lessons learnt that we now take for granted.

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@Rory-495 The mixing with families was always a thing when I was on a watch. In fact, there was something 'in the water' at Poplar R/W in 93/94 as no less than 5 out of 13 of us had wives who were pregnant. I was promoted off of the watch just before my first Daughter was born in July '94 and one of the wives (one of the earliest pregnancies) sadly lost her baby at almost full term, so that really put a damper on it, we were at one point going to get a Newspaper involved as it would have certainly been one to interest the tabloids. 

Anyway, I digress, On my first Watch at Bethnal Green, second watch at Poplar, fourth watch at Bow and my fifth and final Watch back at Poplar, wives and girlfriend nights out/parties as well as kids parties were a regular thing. Even my third watch, Plaistow that was a little disjointed, a few of us younger married one's used to have family meet up's with the handful of babies and toddlers.

London is an ever changing beast, although I live in Outer London, the changes in the past few years since I retired in 2018 as well as not driving the cab since 2015, I notice a big difference. I do feel like a stranger in my own city when I venture into inner/central London lately, I occasionally go up there during the day to carry out Fire Safety work. Unsurprisingly, I think LFB is changing just as quickly, I also do a little bit for Babcock where I visit stations for FS training, it does feel so different so very quickly, mainly because there has been an enormous amount of retirements since I went and maybe because people seem to live so far away now? 

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I would second that Vema11, the Gettin Salty Podcast is brilliant! Very funny at times, really interesting and you learn a whole lot too.

Loads of good first hand information on some big jobs too.

Definitely worth a listen.

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