Arlington firefighter crafts angry letter of resignation


Look, I’m just gonna say it, I need to transfer. It’s nothing personal. You and all the other guys at the station have been great. We’ve had some good times and a lot of laughs, like when we put Gorilla Glue in Marty’s fire helmet, or when we switched out Rick’s oxygen tank with laughing gas—that was golden! And I know that I’ve only been here for three weeks, but I just can’t take this shit anymore.

Back in training, they make this job seem like some heavy duty stuff, real bad-ass, you know? They talk about bravery and honor. They talk about putting the safety of others ahead of your own as you run into a flaming building. We are the few, the proud, the…oh, that’s the Marines. Anyway. Finally, I thought, I would have a job that Ma could brag about to her bridge buddies. But when I signed up for this gig, they didn’t say nothing about having to respond to a fire-alarm every five minutes of the goddamn day!

Everyday, we gotta go over to that college campus across the street, and every time it’s a different reason! In training they can’t shut up about bravery, but they don’t care to mention the douchebag who will pull the fire-alarm to cockblock his roommate. They go on and on about honor, but it’s all “mum’s the word” about the asshole who gets too strung out on caffeine and pulls the alarm, because “if [they] don’t get to sleep, then no one gets to sleep.” They have a shit-ton to say about selflessness and teamwork and how fucking awesome you’ll look in a fire suit (to be fair, we do look mighty dapper), but what do they have to say about the drunk sophomore who has a hankering for some popcorn and passes out after setting the timer for ten minutes ? Nothing!

I’ve been here for three freaking weeks. I’ve answered 35 fire alarms, can you believe it? I’ve yet to see an actual fire. I can already hear Ma with her bridge buddies: “My Joey’s a firefighter and he can’t even get himself around a real fire! Useless, just like his father! Martha if I find out you’ve been stacking these cards I’m going to bust your lower lip!”

And at first, I thought that it was a joke, you know? Like, oh right, let’s send the rookies to go handle the huge, life-threatening, imaginary fires at Vassar College. But then it just kept happening, over and over—four, five times a week!

One time it’s at that sorority house. The next time its at that building that looks like something out of Star Trek. Then, it’s the place that looks like the Tower of Terror ride at Disneyland. Different day, different building, but same lack of fire. And every freaking time, we put on our 75 lbs worth of gear, even though we know the only blazing going on over there has nothing to do with burning buildings. We have to bring out the crowbar and the axe, even though we know the only wood we are going to encounter comes from those few obnoxious students standing outside in nothing but a towel. Didn’t have time to get dressed, my ass! If I have time to put on all this gear and make myself look like a fucking Transformer, then you have enough time to slap on some sweatpants!

And ain’t just the cherry on top of the whole fucking sundae—we all get to pile into the truck, just to drive it a block away. I know it sounds ridiculous, Chief, but have you ever tried to drive that thing through a roundabout? It’s like trying to steer a cruise ship around a kiddy pool! And God forbid you miss the exit! Then you’re stuck just going round and round, like you’re in one of Dante’s circles of Hell! I’m just saying that it’s a waste of gas money, and we could get there faster if we tied a red wagon to the back of my Prius and drove there in that!

Look, I haven’t forgotten the whole “respond to every alarm like it’s a real fire” spiel, but I’m telling you Chief, one day we’re going to miss out on a real fire because of this shit! And what am I supposed to say then? “Oh, hi ma’am, sorry that we were late getting here and let your entire house go up in flames. There was this stoner who mistook the fire alarm for a snack machine that we just had to take care of!” Every time I hear the alarm in the station go off, I think maybe this time it will be different, maybe today will be the day. But then I see that the scanner says 124 Raymond Avenue, and I die a little inside. I just need to go to another station, any station, Chief! Don’t take it personal or nothing like that. It’s just…I need to make Ma and her bridge buddies proud.


—Joey Pilanksi

Not Your Mama’s Fireman

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