Firefighters. As kids it is unlikely that at any given time we did not sit in our sandboxes filled with toys and move about small fire engines, or plastic firemen in the hopes they would arrive in time to a fire and save that person in a burning house or apartment. We saw the burning building, the folks gathered to each side of the road, the glossy red fire engine with fire hoses being readied by oxygen mask wearing firefighters. These firefighters were our heroes and since early childhood the firefighter has always had a special place in our hearts. We recognize a hero when we see them and firefighters and all they do in their line of work is what we recognize a hero to be.


You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself, and for the firefighter it is fire.” 

Larry Brown

Firefighters from our childhoods and those plastic firefighters and the early plastic figures that we had rush out and put themselves in harm’s way to rescue others has always been the icon of our heroes and in real life when they respond to the nearly tens of thousands calls they respond to in America yearly. It is likely way more than that for sure.

dalmatian firefighter

The red fire engines, the smoke, the hoses, the water that came firing out dousing the fire, fire hydrants, the occasional Dalmatian  riding in the truck, an American flag waving in the breeze as the fire truck answered a call and its firefighters clad in their gear ready to do battle with Old Man Fire! These were our memories as kids and why many of us wanted to grow up to become firefighters and for some of us we actually did.

The show goes on!

A firefighter is not part of a profession, not a job, not something we understand unless we have heard the call and it rings clearly in our hearts and minds. It’s a calling. We are lucky because unless we are a firefighter we will never understand the hours, commitments, courage, hours away from family, the ability to witness human tragedy on an unprecedented level, experience incredible training and constant education that is more than just another day at the job but the very things that separates a firefighter from personal calamity or putting their company in harm’s way. They are family to each other and they demand more of themselves and their firefighter brothers and sisters because their lives and the lives of others demand it. They have to be the best in what they do because there is no second chance. Old man fire is not forgiving and firefighters, smoke eaters, know this.

I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even of supreme sacrifice.”

Chief Edward F. Croker

The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line

How large is this American firefighter community that is referred to as The Thin Red Line? Let’s start by understanding what The Thin Red Line is, why it is referred to in this matter and what does it mean. A firefighter is part of a close knit group of professionally trained, life saving, humble and courageous group of men and women whose career is the art of fighting fire, responding to emergencies, helping save lives in a variety of situations and possible outcomes and above all things place their own lives ahead of those they would serve to help and save. They are all called firefighter because they rush into harms way often as a result of a fire and because they number so few in comparison to the rest of us they are called The Thin Red Line. Its a noble calling that few understand. They are firefighters. They are The Thin Re

The American firefighter as part of The Thin Red Line are few in number. Statistically and according to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association, there were approximately 1,160,450 local firefighters in the U.S. in 2015. Of the total number of firefighters 345,600 (30%) were career firefighters and 814,850 (70%) were volunteer firefighters. The US Census Bureau had the United States population at 322,762,018 on Jan. 1, 2016. So as firefighters were in number compared to the US population of that same year The Thin Red Line represented only .0359% percent of the total population of which 70% of that firefighter figure represented volunteers making The Thin Red Line is very thin indeed.

Most of the career firefighters (71%) worked in communities that protected 25,000 or more people. Most of the volunteer firefighters (95%) were in departments that protected fewer than 25,000 people. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of volunteer firefighters have more than 5 years of service. There are an estimated 29,727 fire departments in the U.S. Of these, 2,651 departments were all career, 1,893 were mostly career, 5,421 were mostly volunteer and 19,762 were all volunteer. In the U.S., 13,500 departments provided EMS with basic life support, 4,617 departments provided EMS with advanced life support and 11,610 departments did not provide EMS.

How To Become A Firefighter

How To Become A Firefighter

How to become a firefighter is a path few have taken and a road taken by a special few. It was once a job no one wanted and became a job often found among emigrant communities coming to American shores looking for the American dream and experiencing the American melting pot. They arrived on our coasts from San Francisco to New York and arriving daily on steamboats filled with a passion of a new country and dreams of prosperity. They came from countries like Ireland, Italy, Russia, Poland and many more and when they arrived were met with poverty in many cases, neighborhoods filled with crime and constant struggles of life. However for many of these American immigrants they took jobs no one else wanted like firefighting. They were firefighters not by choice but by need to support a family. With time many settled into the ranks as firefighters and began to excel in these roles as more and more experience was handed to them.

New York Firefighters 1869

New York Firefighters 1869

Today the need for experienced and trained firefighters is ever more in need than before. Time were simpler back in the mid 19th century. As the complexity of fires has increased due to ever changing and updating materials, to the nature of arson, chemicals, the number of vehicles on the road, the increase in population and the larger cities in America all contribute to the factors that increase the risk of fire and the need for the men and women of firefighting to be available to combat these threats in our society. How is the problem solved? Simple enough. Train more firefighters and do so with the advanced ways in terms of education and technology so they can navigate into harms way and successfully deal and solve today’s threats from fire and other issues they are trained to solve. What are the steps involved in how to becomes a firefighter?

 Tompkins Weekly Firefighter training through basketball


Firefighters must have a high school diploma and hold a valid driver’s license. Though firefighters must be 18 years old in order to work, limited on-the-job training can begin at a younger age. There may be a limit on age as well, usually between 28 and 30 years old. Applicants must be physically fit and may be required to pass a criminal background check and drug screening as well.

How to Pass The Firefighter Test

How to Pass The Firefighter Test


Typically, fire departments go to recruitment fairs when they are looking to hire new and potential firefighters. They host screening events where prospective firefighters take written and physical tests. You’ll need patience, since the hiring process is usually lengthy and involved. Qualified applicants who pass the first round of tests are interviewed and often go through an additional series of evaluations and testing. To enter a training program, applicants take at least two exams: a written test and a Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) test. The written exam typically consists of around 100 multiple choice questions and covers spatial awareness, reading comprehension, mechanical reasoning, logic, observation and memory. Applicants must also pass a rigorous physical fitness test. They should be able to perform a distance run in an allotted period of time, climb flights of stairs at a rapid pace and lift and carry up to 200 pounds. This is done to prepare future fire departments with the information they need on an applicants successful or potential progress for movements towards being hired. This information also provides the future firefighter with what they need to know and what is required to gain access to this field.

firefighters EMT EMS


In some jurisdictions, having an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license is a requirement for firefighters, who are often called out for emergency medical situations. EMT is often a multi-level process, but requirements vary by state. Being cross trained is essential.

firefighters academy


Though a great deal of training is done at the firehouse to which a firefighter is hired or assigned to work, attending a fire academy offers the opportunity to focus on classroom and hands-on work. Courses tackle topics that might not be covered by firehouse training, such as hazardous materials control or anti-arson techniques. This is a very involved and focused set of classes and instructions that prepares the future firefighter for their given line of work but also provides areas of education that gives the student valuable information in deciding if a more specific field is to their liking.



For those who want to go on to careers in fire science, paramedics, or advance to leadership roles within firefighting agencies, there are associate and bachelor’s degree programs at colleges, universities and trade schools. If your prospective fire organization requires it, you may need to complete your EMT-Paramedic training and pass those certification exams before applying for work. Some fire organizations host accredited apprenticeship programs that combine classroom training with field internships that can take up to four years to complete. Degrees in forestry with a firefighting/environmental focus are available at the bachelor and master’s degree levels.


How much initial and ongoing education firefighters need is often determined by their leaders and job paths. For example, some firehouses have weekly required training for all firefighters while others have a full-time probationary period, while still others require a four-year apprenticeship. Keeping up with training is a vitally important part of the job. Note that one must usually complete regular continuing education courses to maintain their EMT licenses. This is essential especially when it comes to the medical field due to the ever changing field of medicine with new life saving techniques. This additional experiences is extremely valuable to firefighters.

Firefighter jokes

Firefighter Jokes? Are You Kidding Me?

Many of us have seen a firefighter movie or two and remember this scene or that scene involving a firefighter giving it to another firefighters, a Fire Chief or someone pulling a prank on a probe. Does it happen in the movies, you bet and it happens in real life as well.

The expression on their faces are funnier than the jokes but some of these are actually pretty funny. We had to take a station break from this regularly scheduled firefighter blog to bring you this public service message on the subject of firefighter jokes. Some firefighter jokes are pretty weak but a few put a smile on our faces.

Firefighter Vines

More Firefighter Vines

Volunteer Firefighter


It does matter if you are speaking about a person in the US military, a police officer, a firefighter when it comes to the topic of a volunteer. No pay, long hours, danger and life threatening scenarios that could land you in a hospital or even worse and for a volunteer firefighter you get all of these things for your trouble as you put it on the line each and every day. There is no pat on the back and your successes are often spoken about in some distant firehouse kitchen finishing some dinner you just finished cooking for all your your brothers and sisters. A volunteer firefighter is someone who behind the scenes works their ass off to help the rest of us and they do it on their time with little or no applause. they do not seek commendations or getting their name in the local news. They do it because helping others is above all things to a volunteer firefighter. It is what is most important to them. They are very much part of The Thin Red Line and essential to its ability to perform and function properly. Without a volunteer firefighter The Thin Red Line would be even thinner.

Jimmy Doolittle as seen in the movie Pearl Harbor states something that is so very important and central to all volunteers and in my opinion volunteer firefighters.

“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” – Jimmy Doolittle. Pearl Harbor The movie 2001.

A Fireman's Prayer

A few interesting statistics about volunteer firefighters in America.

  1. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 69 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.
  2. Firefighting in the United States. As of 2014, there are around 1,134,400 firefighters serving in 27,198 fire departments nationwide and responding to emergencies from 58,150 fire stations. Of those firefighters, 31% or 346,150 were career firefighters and 69% or 788,250 were volunteers.
  3. There are over 1.1 million firefighters in the United States. Only 7% are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association.Jun 7, 2016
  4. Typically, non-profit entities like volunteer fire departments do charge some type offer for services due to the necessity of covering ever-rising operational costs. A non-profit means that any profits are used to provide services and are not distributed to the employees or directors for personal gain or use.Jul 12, 2016
  5. Volunteer firefighters do not get paid, but they can get reimbursed. Reimbursement is usually a small amount of tax-free money for time spent on shifts, responding to calls and training. The amount is usually at the discretion of the department.
  6. Requirements for becoming a volunteer firefighter vary by fire department. Most departments require firefighters to be 18 years of age or older and hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Candidates are generally required to pass written and physical exams, drug screenings and background checks.
  7. This law prohibits employers, including the state and its political subdivisions, from discharging or discriminating against employees who are volunteer firefighters or members of volunteer ambulance companies because they are late for work as a result of responding to an emergency call or leave work during regular …Apr 17, 2008
  8. In emergency situations, volunteer firefighters should expect to extinguish and prevent fires as well as administer first aid [source: Grafton Volunteer Fire Department]. Duties also include rescuing victims from cars or buildings, carrying fire hoses up stairs or ladders, and breaking down doors.
  9. What is the age minimum to become a firefighter or EMT? Age requirements vary by department but typically range anywhere from 16-21 for volunteer firefighters or EMTs. … You can learn more about junior firefighter programs and locate one near you at
  10. It does not matter whether firefighters are termed “volunteers”, are considered employees, or are identified by any other name, if the work they do is subject to the will and control of the payer, under the common-law rules, they are employees for Federal tax purposes.Jan 25, 2018
  11. The Volunteer Emergency Responder Tax Deduction Act would allow volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel to treat up to 300 hours of services as charitable donations worth $20 per hour, a total of up to $6,000 in federal deductions per year.Jan 15, 2015
  12. He had emergency lights activated, but no siren. … Under state law, it imposes a standard of conduct on volunteer firefighters citing that if they don’t give audible and visual signals when responding to emergency calls, then they can’t run red lights, according to the report.Jul 10, 2013
  13. Qualifications to Become a Firefighter. There is no federal or state law prohibiting felons from becoming a firefighter. Such rules are up to individual jurisdictions to establish. … Additionally, they may not have had a felony conviction related to a firefighter position, such as arson, burglary, larceny, or murder.
  14. Some states provide tax breaks for volunteers. … some volunteer departments are not truly volunteer as the provide a stipend or hourly pay for responses. This is usually called paid call firefighters. Many people trying to get a job as a firefighter will volunteer to get experience.

Volunteer firefighters clearly serve an important if not essential role helping to ensure the strength needed in our communities ensuring that enough firefighters are on hand, relieving active duty firefighters in need of vacation or much needed time off and as experienced professionals in their own right these volunteer firefighters help to ensure the safety of life and property. They are a critical part of the firefighter community and their self sacrifice and same attitudes, courage and dedication is central to their being as firefighters just as much as their full time brothers and sisters. Thank you to all the volunteer firefighters from all of us to all of you and to The Thin Red Line!

Firefighter Video Games

Firefighter Games

Its pretty awesome to be a firefighter. They get to work in places none of us would ever imagine and they get to save people which for some of us is a dream come true and be the person responsible for helping to save lives when the need calls for it. Because it is a cool profession to be in and one that many will never experience first hand there are still some interesting ways to experience firefighting in a digital way. Below are images and names to some fun firefighter games you may already know and ones you may not. Either way check them out and see how a firefighter operates on the job and some of the training and areas that they get to do on a daily basis.

Firefighter Video Games

Everyone has their opinion when it comes to video games. When it comes to firefighter video games we are sure there is no less the opinions and when real firefighters play some of these titles the level of inspection and criticisms based on reality we are sure comes into play! Firefighters and The Thin Red Line have video games and we think that is pretty cool!


We have all seen the series called Breaking Bad, recognize the HAZMAT cleanup gear and these lunatics dressed in colorful yellow gear, breathing gear, goggle and gloves and it is likely that should the meth lab explode like so many do in reality would these HAZMAT, Breaking Bad, clad meth lab chemists likely not make it to the front door and survive it. The reality of a real HAZMAT explosion or chemical cleanup is far more gruesome and if improperly equipped will cause damage and cause life threatening issues if not remedied immediately.

HAZMAT What is it?

is an abbreviation for “hazardous materials”—substances in quantities or forms that may pose a reasonable risk to health, property, or the environment. HAZMATs include such substances as toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and biological, chemical, and radio-logical agents. In other words these are on the list of do not disturb, do not touch, go away, walk away quickly and just plain do not touch it!

Going back more than a few decades HAZMAT was clearly associated with war. In fact the use of chemical agents added to artillery shells were widely used all over the Western Front. Some of the most gruesome fighting and deaths were associated with chemical agents being used against troops in the field.

French HAZMAT suit circa 1918

French HAZMAT suit circa 1918

Looks like the Dr’s suit from Hollywood’s movie Hostel. Scary. What is most important when it comes to firefighting and the use of HAZMAT training and equipment is that there is no room for second place. The HAZMAT team has to work together with great communication to get the job done and done correctly.

Four characteristics of HAZMAT chemicals.

  • ignitability, or something flammable.
  • corrosivity, or something that can rust or decompose.
  • reactivity, or something explosive.
  • toxicity, or something poisonous.

Meth Lab crackdowns are one of the many issues that confront our firefighting and hazmat teams in the current day. At no time in history has our men and women in firefighting been exposed to this level on such a massive amount of hazmat cleanup as they have experienced with the meth epidemic.


Here comes the drip torches.

At the end of ones’s firefighting career there is time for reflection and some introspection on a career filled with courage, dedication, fear, loss, happiness and some of the finest times you will ever have. The accomplishments are too numerous to account for and remember them all but there is a way to remember a few of the more important dates and occasions. Fire And Axes has crafted one of the most unique firefighter challenge coins in the industry by providing a detailed and open side to its line of firefighter challenge coins with custom diamond etching. Not the laser inscribed numbers seen on coins that rub off but permanent diamond etched custom engraved coins that will last lifetimes. Its first coin to roll off the coin minting line known as the “We Will Always Run In Firefighter Custom Engraved Challenge Coin” has the style and craftsmanship that firefighters have come to expect. Its as unique a firefighter gift as they come.

Luck runs out engraved coin