Fire Fighting in Canada

Stop Bad: Pandemic or not, continue to improve yourself

June 7, 2021 
By Gord Schreiner

The best firefighters spend very little time laying around doing nothing. They are constantly trying to improve themselves. They are constantly maintaining, enhancing their training, and keeping up with the latest trends.

We are fortunate that the fire service is full of great firefighters. You only need to watch one to see how much effort they put into their profession. The one thing they all have in common is their desire to continue to improve themselves. The fire service needs more great firefighters to ensure we continue to provide outstanding services, keep ourselves safe, and continue to enjoy the good reputation we have.

Want to be a great firefighter or fire officer? It all begins with you. Only you can make the change, for better or worse. Others can make suggestions or help you, but you must do it. Find yourself a good role model, or mentor, and observe what they do to be successful. One thing about great firefighters is they love to help others. They will eagerly assist you in becoming better. You can continue to make a positive difference in the fire service and the lives of others. Do not blame others for your shortcomings or failures. Do not make excuses; just get out and do it. I chuckle when someone tells me they are going to change. You do not have to tell me or anyone else — just show us. You are responsible for you. Look in the mirror and do what you need to do to move forward. Becoming a better ‘you’ is a lifelong journey, it never ends. It takes a constant effort. The people who understand this work hard every day to become better. You need to make sacrifices, lots of them. You need to put others first. You need to do more and expect less. You need to step up and do the right things to become a better version of yourself.

It starts with you being nice to everyone you meet, especially to those of lesser fortune. Even on some days when you do not feel like being nice, lift others up and do not put others down. Do not criticize others. This is even more important during this very challenging pandemic.


I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many great firefighters in my life. Watching and learning from others over the years has made me a better person and firefighter. It is very clear to me that I am in charge of who I am. I can learn from others and become a better me. I can choose to be a nice person or not. I have noticed that great firefighters seek opportunities to help others without the expectation of receiving anything. Great firefighters treat others better than they expect to be treated. Great firefighters are humble.

Great firefighters look after themselves. Move your body more, exercise is key to a healthy body. A fitter you will have more energy to become even better. Ensure you keep your mind healthy too. In our profession, we see many bad things. Take time off. We need to take time for our families and ourselves to balance the bad with the good.

As we age, eating properly is even more important as our bodies have a harder time dealing with the things we put in it, including excessive calories. The old adage of you are what you eat is true. Eat good to be good. Eat great to be great.

Be a safer you. As I age, I have become more cautious. It might be because it takes a lot longer for me to heal, or perhaps because I have learned a few hard lessons along the way. When working around my home, I am working and thinking safer now. I even drive much better than I used to. I take less chances and have more patience, even driving to a Code 3. I know that I cannot help if I do not get there safely. I also know I do not want to harm anyone in any way. I drive defensively and I leave my phone alone. I hope others will watch and learn from my better behaviour. I am becoming a better me.

Of course, I have always tried to make great fire ground decisions, but I can honestly say that, today, I make even better decisions as experience and learning from others has taught me a lot. When in doubt, I always lean towards the safety of our firefighters. I know I cannot save what is already lost, and I certainly do not want to be responsible for hurting someone. I wear my PPE more often now and make sure those around me are doing likewise. I want to be a great example for our team. I am open to criticism, and I feel I can learn and improve from this. I seek the input of others to help me adjust my sails.

Try new things to open your mind to change. Turn off the TV and social media. Reading further helps you expand your mind and makes it easier for you to accept change

Train, train and train some more. In the fire service, we must be training all the time. Lives depend on us doing our jobs correctly.

Inside every one of us is a great firefighter. Work hard to let your great firefighter out. Also, get off the couch and work on you!

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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