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Stopbad: Great firefighters are constantly improving

Great firefighters spend very little time lying around doing nothing. Great firefighters are constantly trying to improve themselves. They keep up with the latest trends. They are constantly maintaining and enhancing their training. The one thing good firefighters all have in common is their desire to continue to improve themselves.

November 22, 2017 
By Gord Schreiner

We are fortunate that the Canadian fire service is full of great firefighters. However, the fire service needs more great firefighters, and it all begins with you. Only you can make the change, for better or for worse. Find yourself a good role model or mentor and observe what they do. Another thing about great firefighters is that they love to help others, and they will eagerly assist a colleague who wants to improve.

If you find yourself complaining a lot, quit complaining and start making a change. Don’t blame others for your shortcomings. Don’t make excuses, just get out and do it. I chuckle when someone tells me they are going to change. You are responsible for you. Don’t tell us; show us.

Becoming a better you is a life long journey, it never ends. It takes a constant effort. You will need to make sacrifices, lots of them. You need to put others first, doing more and expecting less. It starts with you being nice to everyone you meet, especially to those who are less fortunate. Be nice even on the days you do not feel like being nice. Lift others up, do not put others down. I try to commit at least one random act of kindness everyday. This might be as simple as holding a door open for someone, or paying it forward in a drive through. Doing this makes me feel better while helping someone else.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many great firefighters in my life. Watching and learning from them has made me a better person and firefighter. Great firefighters are constantly helping others on and off the job. They seek opportunities to help others without expecting anything in return. You should feel good helping others, and by doing so, you are given an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Great firefighters treat others better than they expect to be treated. Great firefighters are humble.


Great firefighters look after themselves physically and mentally. They stay physically fit, eat well and do not abuse their bodies. They look after themselves mentally too. In our profession, we see many bad things. We need to take time for our families and ourselves to balance the negative with the positive.

Eat good to be good. Eat great to be great. Move your body more. Walk, run, bike, move, move, move. Exercise is key to a healthy body. Stay positive, talk to others when you have problems or concerns. Have some healthy fun along the way. You owe it to yourself – and others – to stay in good shape. The healthier you are, the more energy you will have to put towards bettering yourself.

Be a safer you. As I have gotten older, I have become more cautious. It might be because it takes a lot longer for me to heal, or perhaps I have learned some hard lessons along the way. I take fewer chances and have more patience, even when driving a Code 3. I can’t help if I don’t get to a scene safely. I drive defensively and I leave my phone alone.

I have always tried to make good decisions on the fire ground, but I make even better decisions today thanks to years of experience and learning from others. When in doubt, I always emphasize firefighter safety. I wear my PPE more often now and make sure others do the same. I am open to criticism and I seek the input of others to help be adjust my sails.

To be a great person/firefighter you need to maintain healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers, employer, and associates. Having a good relationship require effort. Do not take relationships for granted. Reach out and make things happen. Always be nice, fair, honest and ethical.

Be open to change, including personal growth. You can reinvent a better you when you keep an open mind and embrace new things.

Read, read, and read some more. Reading helps you to expand your mind and stay sharp. Do not just read fire service material. Choose a broad spectrum of things to read, and read often.

Train, train and train some more. In the fire service, we need to train all of the time. Lives depend on us doing our jobs correctly.

Inside every one of us is a great firefighter. Get off the couch, and work hard to let the great firefighter shine.

Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire

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