We got a new probationary firefighter last month. Fresh out of 3 months of drill school, he now has 9 months assigned to our station to learn from us. Getting hired in the Seattle Fire Department doesn’t guarantee that you will have a job. The first year is “conditional” employment. If you get through the 3 months of drill school without getting fired, then you have 9 months in operations where you are assigned to a company in a double house (a station with a ladder truck and fire engine) as a probationary firefighter (“probie” or “boot”), and you are under the watchful eye of that company. Through that whole first year, if a recruit can’t perform up to the SFD standards, they are fired.
So we have had four nuggets of advice floating around the department for a while to help give the recruits an edge in surviving that first year. It’s called “The Four Ups”: Listen Up, Clean Up, Step Up, and Shut Up.
LISTEN UP: There is a lot going on in the fire service. You are entering a culture that is unlike any other on this planet. You will hear stories, tales, and just plain BS Listen carefully – that is the past talking. All of the information has value…how much is up to you. Listen to the older, “over-the-hill” “past their prime” hose jockeys and ladder monkeys. Find the pearls of wisdom that aren’t in any textbook. A lot of important information that will keep you safe and alive is not written down.
CLEAN UP: The firehouse is your second home – treat it as such. If you are the highest number (most recent hire), you are the lowest person on the totem pole. You get the dirty work. You get to do the dishes and mop the floor and clean the toilets. This is not based on any prejudices of race, sex, or religion. It is based on the fact that all of the junior people before you did it, or should have done it. You will do it until the next “boot” is assigned to the company. It is part of belonging. It is doing what you should be doing. The ones who piss and moan about it are the ones who end up doing it by themselves for a long time. But the ones who just do it, those who are first at the sink after a meal, usually find that they have help. They become “family” a little quicker.
STEP UP: This goes hand in hand with clean up, but there is more. Be involved in your company, in the Union, and in the Department. Attend functions; help run them if possible Be a productive member. Become part of the fire service by deed and not by mouth. Above all, go to funerals and services. Pay your respects to those who have gone before you.
SHUT UP: Spend more time listening and doing it than talking about it. Show by your actions and your deeds what type of firefighter and member of this great brotherhood you are.
Well, this is good advice for life in general, not just for the probie! We “welcomed” our new probie with a mild prank. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzFrc5JilwU&feature=youtu.be.
Hope you enjoy this month’s recipe!
Suey’s Seattle Smoked Salmon Potato Salad
By Michael “Suey” Sulak, Seattle Fire Department, Station 8, Ladder 6
4 lbs. red potatoes
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 ¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ lb. hot-smoked salmon, crumbled
Boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and let the potatoes sit until they are cool enough to handle, then slice the potatoes into ½ inch slices. Put them into a large salad bowl along with the red onion.
In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the vinegar, dill, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Whisk this together and then gently stir into the potatoes and onions along with the smoked salmon. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled – about 2 hours. Makes 8-10 servings.
**Note: The term “Beanery” is still alive and well in the Seattle Fire Department and is still the name we apply to the kitchen today. Because of low wages early in SFD’s history, the firefighters could often only afford to buy beans for their meals. Beans were cheap and provided a high source of protein. The procedure was to soak the beans overnight and simmer them all day long in the kitchen…thus the term “Beanery.”