The “sweet” life of an Ottawa firefighter
Ottawa Citizen columnist Randall Denley is griping today about the Ottawa Fire Department’s plan to go to a 24-hour work day. There he sits in his cushy little office typing, working a regular nine-to-five shift, maybe less, for his paycheque.
He’s complaining about the fact that Ottawa firefighters will begin to work seven days a month, 24 hours a day instead of their more regular 14 hour shifts.
Why, he asks, should they get special treatment?
“The total number of hours worked remains the same but the inconvenience of actually having to show up at the workplace is sharply reduced,” he writes.
Where’s the logic in that statement? I suppose Denley is also against all the people who work from home; they do the work but they don’t have to have a desk and a phone in some sealed building.
Here’s another gem from his column.
“Their workplace situation is getting increasingly divorced from the world that most people live in. Most of us work five days a week. The sheer regularity of our presence in the workplace leads to some kind of engagement. How involved can a person be in a job where he only has to show up occasionally?”
WTF? And this?
“How sweet does a firefighter’s job really have to be, and where does it end?”
“How many of them will be working full-time at another job?”
First, a firefighter’s job isn’t sweet. They risk their lives every day to help other people, and protect property. They are exposed to toxic fumes, carcinogens, falling debris and worse. They die of cancers of the esophagus, lungs, colon and brain at a much higher rate than the average Canadian. They also die of heart attacks from the heat and stress of their everyday workplace — a fire. I wonder how many of these hazards adversely affect a column writer.
Whether or not they attend the fire station five days a week has nothing to do with their “engagement”. They don’t go to fires, drink coffee and gossip. Fires kill and destroy in seconds. I’d like to see Randall Denley put on bunker gear and carry his own weight in gear, oxygen tanks and hoses, scurry up ladders in freezing and blistering hot weather and break into buildings that are falling all around him. As the saying goes: firefighters run into buildings other people run away from.
Second, the new shift will not change the number of hours a firefighter works. Sure they might not have a fire in the middle of the night, and might actually sleep through the night once in a while, but they are always out on calls. They are the first at the scene of an accident or a health emergency. Always.
Thirdly, it’s nobody’s damned business what firefighters do in their off time. A lot of them run side businesses, so what? Randall Denley writes mystery novels in his off hours and promotes them in his own paper when he isn’t writing pithy columns.
My experience, being someone who has worked with firefighters for more than six years is that firefighters spend a lot of time doing volunteer work, raising money, organizing Christmas parades, and doing good works. Their union is strong because firefighters work tirelessly to improve their own working conditions, which are awful.
Maybe the next time Randall Denley is in a burning building looking for help, he’ll wish he had kept his snotty opinions to himself.