My last official 24-hour shift as a Career Federal Firefighter (for the US Govt/DOD/Dept of the Army) at the Aberdeen Proving Ground (Edgewood Station) was on August 28/29, 2005. At 0800 hours, the morning of August 29, I walked out the door, having officially resigned my position. This was done for several reasons, mostly having to do with my distaste of, and dis-satisfaction with the whole Federal Fire system as an employer. There was zero opportunity for me to promote up the chain of command (As I do not kowtow to Management and I certainly do not climb under their desks), and the whole pay-reform act of 2002(?) thing had me really irritated. But the two biggest reasons: 1. The 24 on/24 off shifts; I didn't mind the 24 hour shift, but the one day on, one day off shit really got old after 10 years (plus with driving 135 miles one way, it REALLY sucked......) and 2. My back really started giving me problems- Anytime I ever wore an SCBA, my lower back really gave me fits.
Prior to seeking other avenues of employment, I did put in an application for one of three positions at the Tobyhanna Army Depot. They were advertising for three GS-7 Driver/Operator spots. At that time, I was a GS7 Step 4 D/O, so I would fit in perfectly with that, and they were only about 50 miles from the house. Cool. Shorter commute. So I put in for it, and later found out that the Fire Chief there was also a local Volly Chief, and played games and hired three of his volly buddies. Who woulda thunk a Federal Fire Chief would have played games like THAT?
So that was the straw that broke the Camel's back. I began to seek employment elsewhere, and found the job that I am in now as a (third party/contracted) Municipal Code Enforcement Official/Plans Examiner/Building Inspector/Zoning Official/Fire Marshal. It is not bad work, and certainly has it's ups and downs. It's not as glamorous as the Firehouse, but it is important nevertheless. I am responsible for making sure people build residential and commercial buildings according to the zoning/building and life safety codes. I also do fire marshal work and fire inspections, so I still keep my toes "dipped into the fire water."
Once in a while, I do miss the firehouse and the action. I live too far away from my Volunteer House to be of any help to them, plus unfortunately I do have to admit that after I resigned my career position, I gained a whole bunch of weight. I am currently working to try and shed some of that weight, but dieting has always been extremely difficult for me. At the firehouse, we had to work out for and hour and a half every shift, which did motivate me, however I now have no "motivation." So me and my largeness do not need to be actively engaging in firefighting at this particular period in time.
Occasionally, the guys up the street go flying by with the "Q" wound up, or I see a big job on TV that gets my blood going- such as the conflagration in Camden, NJ yesterday. 12 alarms were struck in less than 2 hours for a warehouse complex with numerous exposures. Extremely heavy fire conditions combined with a stiff wind, and Camden's ever-present water pressure problems (not to mention many of the hydrants in the immediate area of this fire) made for a very bad situation from the start. All in all close to 30 buildings were either destroyed or severly damaged. Listening to this fire while driving home, I kept wanting to turn around and head south and "buff the big one." But as I live approx. 2 hours away, I thought that I would have missed a lot- I never expected the fire to reach 12 alarms. Had I gone to the fire when I wanted to, I would have made it there in plenty of time to see some action and take pics. Many good friends in the Camden Fire Department, too.