Everyone wants to be a gangster until

By now the firefighter meme about the title of this blog has circuited around the inter-webs for months. It shows a firefighter removing bars with a saw with heavy fire coming out. While this picture is sure to get the safety folks cold chills down their spines it also is a true statement.

Being a gangster is not about dressing the part, acting the part, rather it is about being able to live up to the role when it’s time to take care of business. Sound familiar?  Over the past 4 years of being an instructor, I have seen this time and time again. “I have XYZ certification” or “ I have been on the job for XYZ amount of years,”  My answer is, SO WHAT?

You see talk is cheap and experience, while extremely valuable is not indicative of how you perform on the fire ground. We will ALWAYS honor this who came before us and respect their experience but if you have all that time on the job you better be able to perform when the bell sounds, We belong to a performance based business. When the public calls we respond and are expected to fix the problem, period.



Now, back to the gangster analogy. Do you pull on a job shirt that says fire dept? Will you show up on a rig that says fire department? Around your should is there a radio that squawks out radio traffic?  If so, you are a gangster, in the firefighter sense.  And one day you are going to be asked to do some gangster style work.

Why are you talking about gangster style work? Some day you will be asked to push yourself to the physical limits, crawl down dark hallways, scale tall buildings, and put your life as collateral to save another. Doesn’t that sound like some gangster style work?  No matter what side of the risk vs reward debate you stand on this day is going to come. Usually when you least expect it.



I don’t care where you’re from, what type of firefighter you are, or any differences you may have. When you dress in our form of gangster gear you will be asked to do gangster work. You need to prepare for it now. I truly believe that firefighters worldwide understand this situation can appear at any minute. I also believe that there is not a firefighter that wouldn’t go above and beyond to save a life.
How does one prepare for gangster work?

I would highly doubt that any gangster from yesteryear started off as the godfather. One would imagine that it takes years of training, learning, and operating in gangster mode to become a successful one. Sound familiar?


Making sure that we are ready to work in the most extreme conditions is all of our jobs. Providing these situations is not really that hard. Set up a basic drill and add the sense of urgency to it by adding a time limit.  Before the drill starts have the firefighters run a mile, do 40 push ups, or burpees. (by far my least favorite) Doing this will get the adrenaline flowing and add some physical stress to the firefighters.



By far the best way to get gangster ready is to get into some live fire training. Operating within the 1403 regulations firefighters need to get on the battlefield. Adding 200-degree temps can add a variable many struggle with. It doesn’t have to be a carpet sucking hot experience to make it a valuable one. Matter of fact it only takes a small amount of heat and smoke to prepare firefighters and build muscles memory. Having seen this time and time again this Training Officer believes live fire training is essential to the preparation of firefighters both young and old.
When training in the live fire we need to make it as real as allowed. Operating within the limits of 1403 we need to set up the scenarios in a way to allow the students to respond, pull hose, throw ladders, and make the tactical decisions in real time. If we lay everything out for them and just crawl hallways without having the initial set up a time we are setting them up for failure. Put all safety lines, water supply, and safety officers in place and run it like a real fire. This is how we practice being a gangster.



No matter where or who you are in the fire department a day is going to come for you to go above and beyond. Some of us it may come sooner than later. We need to remember that deep inside each of us is a fire-gangster ready to rock. It’s your responsibility that when the day comes you are ready to be a gangster!
It is time for making the time for serious training in stressful conditions. Just remember to say “Say hello to my little friend” as you take off the mask when the task is completed!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *