Fire Fighting in Canada

Stop Bad: Set your bar high

August 19, 2022 
By Gord Schreiner

The fire service is constantly in need of highly dedicated, well-trained individuals. We are very fortunate that our beloved service has lots of these types of folks already, however, we can always use more. 

We also have a lot of well-trained members who have, for many reasons, lost their dedication and desire and are blocking others from moving up or joining. A few get promoted and then try to coast to the finish line. They quit doing the good things that got them to where they are. They take things for granted. They can be more difficult to deal with then a three-alarm fire. I believe you should put your head down and work hard to get to the finish line. I am sure it will feel much better when you get there.

I have always said, “Don’t quit, but if you do quit, please leave!” Quitting and staying can destroy even the best departments. It can destroy the careers of those below you, ruin the culture of an organization and make your career a lot less rewarding. If you are done, then get out of the way and let others move forward. 

In my 47th year in the fire service, I think about this every day. I don’t want to be a blocker (and yes, I know I am). I strongly believe I still have much to contribute. I try to work even harder these days to show others that I can still contribute and still belong. I do that through leading by example. By doing more than is expected of me. By pushing our department forward. By adding more and more innovations. By trying to make our department better every day. I don’t hesitate  to help with packing hose or washing a rig. I try to be a first to work at the station everyday and the last one to leave. I show up, speak-up and stand-up. I try to show up for all the events I can including calls and training. I take pride in tackling problems, finding solutions, and moving forward. 


My staff and team here know very well I’ll speak up if I see something I don’t like. In fact, I think I have developed a reputation (which I am proud of) of being that person that does speak up (sometimes too often). They also know very well that I’ll stand up for what I believe in and will bend over backwards to assist one of our own or a member of our community. Helping others helps you too! I strongly believe you should be competing for your job (career or volunteer) every day. Many others would love my job (or yours)!

I set high expectations for my staff. I want them to work hard and bring me solutions, not problems. I expect them to excel at customer service. I push my staff, sometimes too hard, but we are all very proud of the dozens of innovations we have developed here. When completing a project or task I expect my staff to put a bow on it! I or someone else should not have to follow up to complete it. Continue to push yourself. No coasting, there is always more to do. 

Be impressive, not ordinary. Overwhelm others, don’t underwhelm them. Be kind! Be generous (with your time and your money). I work hard to impress, help and treat those who cannot help my career way more than I do to the people above me who can greatly affect my career. I take extra time to talk to those who have less or need a hand up. 

You only get to make a first impression once and often you don’t know when this will be, so just excel all the times. I strongly believe I need to pay it forward and pay it back. I have been blessed with a great career. I owe it to others to pay it back. 

I was recently given a Lifetime Achievement award from our local Chamber of Commerce. 

I was very surprised by this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t think I deserved it, and secondly, I noted to them that I was only halfway through my career. I have much more to give. My lifetime will continue (I hope).

When I sprint across the finish line I want to smile and look back and say, “I made a positive difference!” 

Editor’s historical note: Gord has been writing his StopBad column for a decade. Thank you Gord for your contributions to the the fire service conversation through Fire Fighting in Canada! 

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. He has delivered countless presentations in fire stations all over Canada and is available to assist your department in many areas. For more information please contact: Chief Gord Schreiner, 

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